The congressman from the second district of Pampanga did not expect public flagellation when he went on record with his proposal even after the chairman of the Commission on Elections had professed readiness and willingness to proceed with the synchronized elections on May 9, 2022.
What Arroyo is saying now is that he simply aired his curiosity over the Comelec’s readiness if no vaccine or drug against COVID-19 shall have been approved to address the problem by election time, implying that the media may have misinterpreted his pronouncements during the public hearing on the budget of the Comelec last Thursday, Sept. 24.
Yet there is no mistaking Arroyo’s train of thought during that hearing. He said that his constituents are afraid to vote due to possible exposure to COVID-19.
A known ally of the administration, Congressman Arroyo has been videoed saying that, “I’ve been hearing in my district, the businessmen, the old people, they’re saying maybe they would not just vote because they’re scared to vote during that day. That’s just food for thought, Mr. Chair. The Comelec may choose to answer that or not.”
Despite his belated protestations, it is apparent that Arroyo gave serious thought to his suggestion to the Comelec. He hastened to add that, “I hope that thought will linger in their minds. I’m not saying you should do it. Just consider it.” He further recommended that the proposal to postpone elections should come from Comelec and not Congress. His reason is that, “if it comes from us, then people might think we have motives to extend our term.”
Cagayan De Oro representative Rufus Rodriguez, who chairs the House committee on constitutional amendments, said in reply that postponing the 2022 polls is unconstitutional as the Constitution itself provides for the date of the elections. Rodriguez said he is certain that his committee is going to deny a measure seeking to postpone the 2022 elections because of COVID-19.
If no elections are held in May 2022 and there is no corresponding assumption to office of newly elected officials by June 30, would that mean that the present crop of officials will continue in a hold-over capacity until an election is actually conducted and winners are proclaimed?
The result would be unconstitutional. For example, Article VII, Section 4 of the Constitution fixes the term of the President and the Vice President who are elected by direct vote of the people for a term of six years which shall begin at noon on the thirtieth day of June next following the day of the election and shall end at noon of the same date six years thereafter.
That provision of the Constitution was applied when President Rodrigo R. Duterte and Vice President Ma. Leonor G. Robredo assumed office as President and Vice President, respectively, on June 30, 2016. That term will end at exactly noon of June 30, 2022. It may not extend one minute longer.
As to members of Congress where Congressman Arroyo currently serves, Article VI, Section 7 of the Constitution provides that they shall be elected for a term of three years which shall begin, unless otherwise provided by law, at noon on the thirtieth day of June next following the day of their election.
The Constitution does not reserve a contingency by which to anchor any claim to political office that goes beyond the term that the same Constitution provides in no uncertain terms.
The only post-Marcos presidents who got to serve for more than six years as President under the current Constitution are Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Cory Aquino was sworn into office on Feb. 25, 1986, but that detail was expressly adverted to in the transitory provisions of the 1987 Constitution. Article XVIII, Section 5 provides that the “six-year term of the incumbent President and Vice President elected in the Feb. 7, 1986 election is, for purposes of synchronization of elections, hereby extended to noon of June 30, 1992.”
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as we know, was vice president when she ascended to the presidency and replaced Joseph Estrada who was considered resigned after second EDSA revolution. She was eligible for election as president three years later because the disqualification in the Constitution pertains to a person who has succeeded as President and has served as such for more than four years./WDJ