Plebiscite ahead of May 2025 polls unlikely – Comelec

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star
Plebiscite ahead of May 2025 polls unlikely � Comelec
Students and faculty members participate in the Special Register Anywhere program, led by Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman George Garcia, at the National University in Manila on March 5, 2024.
STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — A plebiscite for Charter Change within the year or ahead of the May 2025 midterm elections is unlikely, according to the Commission on Elections.

Comelec Chairman George Garcia explained yesterday: “We’re running out of time getting ready for the elections in 2025. So, to conduct a plebiscite before the end of the year… it’s a little tight for the Comelec.”

“It’s already March. There’s still the procurement, preparations. It will not be possible to have a plebiscite this year,” Garcia added.

He made the statement in reaction to the call of some legislators to hold the plebiscite ahead of the scheduled May 2025 NLE.

Garcia, however, stressed that Comelec is obliged to conduct the plebiscite whenever mandated by Congress.

Concerning questions on the legality of holding a simultaneous plebiscite with the NLE, he said it is premature to discuss the matter.

At this time, Garcia said, the Senate and House of Representatives are still debating the proposed simultaneous plebiscite with the NLE polls.

He said the Senate wants the two electoral activities to be held at the same time, while Congress wants them to be conducted separately.

“We at the Comelec will obey the order of the Senate and House of Representatives,” Garcia said.

If mandated by both houses of Congress, he said the Comelec is ready to hold the plebiscite together with the NLE.

“If allowed to happen simultaneously, that is a legal and political issue, which the Comelec cannot interfere,” he explained. Garcia said the Comelec will respect the decision of the political departments.

But Garcia said the Supreme Court still has the final say on the legality of holding the plebiscite at the same time as the midterm elections.

910,918 voters register

Close to a million aspiring voters have already registered for the May 2025 NLE, the Comelec reported yesterday.

Comelec data showed that since the resumption of voter registration last Feb. 12, a total of 910,918 aspiring voters have submitted their applications.

The biggest number of applicants came from Calabarzon with 165,702; followed by Metro Manila with 140,638.

Central Luzon ranked third with 98,976 applicants, while Central Visayas followed with 70,972 and the Davao Region with 55,315.

On the other hand, the Cordillera Administrative Region recorded the lowest number of applicants with 10,346; followed by Mimaropa with 22,069 and Caraga with 24,331.

The Comelec is looking to lure three million new voters to apply and become registered voters until the end of the seven-month voter registration period on Sept. 30, 2024.

Garcia earlier expressed surprise over the overwhelming response of the public to the voter registration activity, and said that applicants don’t usually go during the first days of the voter registration period, but they have so far recorded an “extraordinary” number of applicants.

No early campaigning

For those intending to run next year, don’t try to engage in early campaigning.

The Comelec issued an early warning that those seeking to run in the NLE are immediately banned from campaigning upon filing of their certificate of candidacy (COC) in October.

Garcia said that like in last year’s barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections, the Commission will impose a ban against early campaigning.

“When they file their COCs in October, they should all be considered as candidates already,” the Comelec chair said yesterday.

“We don’t want the Comelec to be left inutile after the filing of COCs (if) they will be considered candidates in February for national and March for local candidates. It is simply unacceptable,” he stressed.

According to Garcia, the Comelec will perform its constitutional duty to enforce and administer election laws.

Despite the provisions of the Poll Automation Law and a Supreme Court ruling, Garcia said, the Commission is set to implement the premature campaigning ban.

The Poll Automation Law provides that “any person who files his certificate of candidacy shall only be considered as a candidate at the start of the campaign period,” and that “unlawful acts applicable to a candidate shall be in effect only upon the start of the campaign period.”

In 2009, the Supreme Court affirmed the provision of the Poll Automation Law, which paved the way for the removal of premature campaigning as an election offense.

Due to this, the Comelec has been rendered powerless in controlling the proliferation of campaign posters and political advertisements airing in different media platforms in past elections.

But in next year’s polls, Garcia said the Comelec will enforce the ban against premature campaigning until prevented by the Supreme Court.

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