President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (Presidential file photo)
MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte is not interested in extending his term beyond 2022, contrary to speculations that calls to suspend the 2022 elections were made for his benefit, Malacañang said on Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said delaying the elections “can never be an option” for Malacañang unless the 1987 Constitution is amended.
“The President is not interested in extending his term and he leaves it to the Filipino people, the sovereign people to decide if they want to amend the Constitution to suspend elections,” he said in a virtual Palace briefing.
Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Mikey Arroyo earlier asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to consider postponing the 2022 elections amid fears of transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Roque said the Comelec already announced that it is considering a “modified” form of elections with “less physical contact” as a preventive measure against Covid-19.
“Under the situation po, mukhang ang magbabago yung paraan kung paano mangampanya pero patuloy po ang eleksyon (it looks like what’s going to change is the way, by which campaigns are done but elections will push through),” he said.
He also floated the possibility that Comelec may support the proposal to allow a vote by mail option for senior citizens and persons with disabilities to safeguard them from the highly-infectious disease.
“The decision lies with the Comelec…Baka po (Perhaps), for the first time, baka makonsidera ‘yan ng ating (it may be considered by the) Comelec,” he said.
Roque also rejected assumptions that the House speakership row is related to calls to postpone the 2022 elections.
“Wala pong kinalaman ‘yan sa kahit na anong postponement of elections kasi nga po nasa Saligang Batas ‘yan (It has nothing to do with the postponement of elections because it’s in the Constitution). Unless we can amend the Saligang Batas (Constitution) on or before elections, it will have to be scheduled on the date specified on our Constitution,” he said.
Last month, Palace also dismissed suspicions that Duterte has plans of extending his years in office following pro-Duterte groups’ call to establish a revolutionary government.
Duterte as well as top government officials have publicly rejected the proposal to establish a revolutionary government, stressing the need to prioritize the ongoing health crisis.
China-based social media accounts
Roque downplayed China’s potential role in the 2022 elections in the Philippines following reports that China-based fake social media accounts expressed support for Duterte and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte’s possible presidential bid in the upcoming polls.
“I have been a strong adherent for freedom of expression and the free marketplace of ideas. At ang Pilipino naman po napakatalino na natin, hindi po lahat ng nababasa sa Facebook ay pinaniniwalaan (And Filipinos, we’re intelligent enough to know that we should not believe everything we read on Facebook),” he said.
Facebook earlier took down two disinformation networks: one with alleged links to the Philippine military and police, and another originating from Fujian, a province on the southeastern coast of China.
Both were flagged for “coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB)”, specifically for potentially engaging in foreign or government interference.
Vice President Leni Robredo earlier questioned China’s alleged hand in the 2022 elections, warning that social media interference may pose threats to the country’s sovereignty. (PNA)