Comelec ready to conduct Cha-cha plebiscite

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

February 29, 2024, 8:03 pm

<p>Comelec chairperson George Garcia <em>(PNA file photo)</em></p>

Comelec chairperson George Garcia (PNA file photo)

MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday assured the public that it is prepared to conduct the plebiscite on economic Charter change, whether it would be held separately from or in conjunction with the 2025 midterm elections.

Comelec Chairperson George Garcia made the statement during the Register Anywhere Program held at the House of Representatives.

"Handang-handa po ang inyong Komisyon whether separate siya o isabay, handa po kaming isagawa ang plebisito (The Commission is very much ready to conduct the plebiscite, either independently or simultaneously [with next year's midterm elections]),” Garcia said.

He said holding the midterm polls and the plebiscite for constitutional amendments simultaneously would incur no additional cost to the government.

"Yun po, walang gastos na dagdag yun sapagkat pahahabain lang ng konti yung balota (There are no additional costs because the ballots would simply need to be made longer)," he said.

The separate holding of Cha-cha referendum and midterm elections would require funding of at least PHP13 billion.

He, however, argued that holding the plebiscite separately would allow constituents to review the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution more thoroughly before voting.

"Magandang mapag-aralan din sapagkat maganda rin na doon lang naka-focus itong mga kababayan natin sa issue ng pagbabago sa Saligang Batas. Saligang Batas kasi yan eh, di naman ordinaryong batas din yan. Therefore, nandun din ang legal issue na huwag isabay (It's better to study this first because it would also be good for citizens to focus on the issue of amending the Constitution. That's the supreme law; it's not just some ordinary legislation. Therefore, there may be certain legal issues to consider in not holding it simultaneously [with the midterm polls])," he said.

Garcia said the poll body is ready to work on whatever both houses of Congress agree on regarding the holding of the Charter change plebiscite.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said Wednesday the simultaneous conduct of the 2025 midterm elections and the plebiscite on Charter change is the “practical thing” to do.

In an interview before going to Canberra, Australia, Marcos said it would be costly if the midterm elections and the plebiscite for the ratification of the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution were done separately.

“Dahil ‘pag ihihiwalay natin yung eleksyon at saka yung plebiscite, parang dalawang eleksyon ‘yun. Napakamahal. So baka maaari kung isabay natin ‘yung plebisito sa local elections na gagawin sa Mayo next year (Because if we separate the election and the plebiscite, it would be like two elections. Very expensive. So, maybe we could conduct the plebiscite simultaneously with the local elections that will be held in May next year),” he said.

“So, if we are able to incorporate the two exercises together as a practical matter, sa palagay ko makakatulong yun (I think that could help).”

Marcos said the plan is favorable to the government because a lot of money would be saved if the plebiscite and the 2025 polls were carried out simultaneously.

He said the matter is still being studied to ensure the smooth conduct of the two electoral exercises. (PNA)