By Deighton Acuin

PHOTO: Kiko Pangilinan

An official from the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has called on Congress to amend the local absentee law or to pass a measure for early voting so the vulnerable sectors would be allowed to vote ahead of May 9, 2022 national elections.

This is the assumption that the coronavirus pandemic is still ongoing by the time Filipinos decide who will lead next year.

In an interview over Dobol B sa News TV, COMELEC Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said she already talked with Senate Electoral Reforms Committee Chairperson Imee Marcos regarding the amendments on Local Absentee Act, which allows sectors from media, education, and law enforcements to vote early to perform their duties during the election day.

"Kung puwede nilang i-amend 'yan para 'yung mga PWD, elderly, mga pregnant women, mga indigenous people, people who are in jail can vote early. Puwedeng i-amend 'yan, mabilis lang 'yung amendment," she said.

Guanzon said the Congress may approve Early Voting Act, which allows vulnerable individuals to vote ahead of polls day.

She said that such laws would reduce the number of individuals gathering in poll presincts, minimizing the coronavirus infections.

"Let's say 61 million [ang voting population]. Dapat one-fourth man lang niyan vulnerable groups ay magaan-gaan na ang trabaho, at 'yung mga tao makakaboto talaga," Guanzon said.

Several measures were crafted in Congress to allow voters to cast their votes in 2022 national polls while ensuring their safety against the disease, including the measure proposed by Marikina City Representative Stella Quimbo which seeks to conduct “postal voting” among senior citizens.

However, Guanzon said the proposed mail voting may cause election fraud.

"'Yung voting by mail, medyo delikado 'yun e. Hindi ako sure. Although I spoke with Chairman [Norman] Fulgencio of PHLPost, kaya naman daw nila with their new infrastructure na machines," she said.

"Pero hindi ako [pabor] doon sa voting by mail, kasi alam mo naman ang mga Pilipino masyadong enterprising, baka maharang ang mga balota," she added.

Guanzon said the COMELEC is targeting to add more vote counting machines and poll presincts to manage the flow of people during elections.

"Ang problem ngayon kapag may pandemic, social distancing, medyo slow motion ang mga tao. So talagang dadagdagan natin ang mga vote counting machines at dagdagan din natin ang presinto," she said.

"[Pero] ang solusyon talaga diyan, early voting ng vulnerable sectors. Kailangan talaga ang Kongreso, sana ipasa nila 'yung batas tsaka iakyat kay Presidente, certify as urgent, para mapasa na 'yan this year, let's say within six months," she added.

Earlier, COMELEC Spokesman James Jimenez said the polls agency is considering banning face-to-face campaign due to the country’s situation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.