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Don’t waste it

There are lessons to be drawn from the recent Palawan plebiscite as we prepare to head to our precincts on 9 May 2022, when we choose our next president, vice president, and the lawmakers on whose hands our future rests.

The polls that shunned well-oiled efforts to divide the province into three proved that our citizens will go out and do their patriotic duty of casting their votes even in the middle of the pandemic.

It was feared that the Covid-19 spread would make the Palaweños think twice before going out, but they didn’t.

Of Palawan’s nearly 500,000 registered voters, 60.73 percent of them participated in the plebiscite.

It was pushed by the incumbent officials who accepted their defeat just as quickly as the last vote was counted. In the end, 58.50 percent of the votes junked Palawan’s division into a Del Norte, Del Sur, and Oriental.

Only the towns of Batazara, Cagayancillo, Culion and Rizal favored the division. A majority of 17 towns favored Palawan as one province, including the remote Kalayaan Island, where 41 of its 61 residents voted with the majority.

The country’s victory in the exercise, however, was not in the turnout, but in the willingness of the people to engage in a political drill despite the dangers brought by the coronavirus.

It was for a reason that the plebiscite, originally scheduled for 11 May 2020, had to be postponed indefinitely and was held finally on 13 March 2021.

The national elections will not be postponed, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) assures.

Besides, the Comelec could use the other countries that have held elections in the middle of the pandemic as models in ensuring the safety of the voting public.

Until 21 August this year, at least 79 countries and territories across the globe had decided to postpone national and subnational elections due to the virus.

Of this number, at least 42 countries and territories had decided to postpone national elections and referendums.

That’s about half of the 132 countries and territories which decided to hold national or subnational elections despite concerns related to the pandemic. National elections or referendums had been held in 110 countries, while 57 countries and territories had held elections that were initially postponed, of which at least 29 held national elections or referendums.

Those are good signs we’re seeing, and the Comelec has reasons to assure the public the national elections will push through no matter what.

The availability of vaccines, however slow the deliveries are perceived, is an added positive package to the call for us to vote.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez has also warned against using the pandemic as a reason and excuse to postpone the polls. It should be held, no matter what.

Even the lockdowns — granular or what — should not deny any voter his chance to participate in the exercise, except perhaps to voters who turned out positive for Covid-19 at the time of the polls. The majority’s health and safety should be assured.

Huge gatherings, like political rallies, should be banned, however. There should be no exemptions, whether the organizer is the incumbent or the opposition.

It will be hard adjusting to new rules, but we are in a new normal, yet we have managed to adapt to the situations the virus had presented us.

In the Palawan experience, even the Comelec adjusted to the realities on the ground and allowed citizens without the required face shields to cast their votes. It could not deny us of that right.

We only need to be more responsible by having our masks on when we mark those ballots.

So, go out and vote.

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Credit belongs to : www.tribune.net.ph

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