The Commission on Elections allayed fears Friday that the COVID-19 pandemic might be weaponized by local officials with a political agenda to disenfranchise voters on election day.
This was the assurance by Comelec commissioner Marlon Casquejo in response to an inquiry raised by Deputy Speaker Bernadette Herrera Dy regarding the possibility of local government units ordering lockdowns on election day.
The campaign period will begin on February 8 for national candidates and on March 25 for local candidates.
“On election day there will be no lockdowns because it may be used just to disenfranchise voters,” Casquejo said during the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System hearing.
Meanwhile, Philippine National Police Chief Gen. Dionardo Carlos is reminding candidates for the May elections and their supporters to abide by the campaign rules set by Comelec as supported by the Department of Interior and Local Government.
“It will be an unprecedented campaign season so we hope that the candidates will set an example to the public of how they should obey our campaign guidelines,” he said.
Comelec Resolution 10732 issued in November last year institutionalizes the new normal in conducting physical campaigns, rallies, meetings, and other related activities based on the alert level being implemented in a certain area.
Minimum public health standards will be observed as prescribed by the Department of Health.
The prohibited acts under the in-person activities include entering private dwellings for house-to-house campaigning even with the owner’s permission, crowding, handshaking or other forms of physical contact, taking selfies or photographs that require proximity among people, and distributing food and drinks.
“Our police personnel shall exercise vigilance in monitoring election-related activities while maintaining our being apolitical,” Carlos said.
Casquejo said they had guidelines on lockdowns and they made sure there would be no lockdown during the election proper.
In related developments, the Comelec has been urged to conduct another round of mock elections for the 2022 national and local polls.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. made the appeal during the Friday briefing of the joint congressional oversight committee on the automated election system after certain technical issues had been observed in previous mock elections.
In December 2021, the poll body held mock elections in 34 barangays nationwide – from 7 a.m. to noon, but other precincts ended the mock polls at 5 p.m.
The technical issues included rejected ballots due to smudges and that the barcode was accidentally written on by the voter, paper jam due to non-alignment of the vote counting machines and ballot box, misread ballots, and ballots which are not automatically dropping inside the box because they were supposedly moist.
The PNP also asked the public to help in reporting violations of the campaign provisions.