Political candidates and their supporters have been reminded by the Department of the Interior and Local Government to avoid conducting rallies before the official campaign period, amid the threat of the Omicron variant, which has fueled a “worrying surge” in COVID cases worldwide.
The campaign period for national posts starts officially on Feb. 8, 2022, although caravans have been seen for the different presidential aspirants in different regions.
“Political rallies are still prohibited. It’s not yet the campaign period]. We have been seeing candidates, both national and local, staging political rallies here and there which gather hundreds if not thousands of people. The pandemic is not yet over. The Omicron variant remains a threat,” DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said in a statement.
The DILG said special gatherings would need permission from the local government unit concerned, adding minimum public health standards should be observed at all times.
The Commission on Elections earlier passed Resolution 10732 which bars candidates in next year's national elections from making physical contact in meetings and other related activities during the campaign period.
This includes “handshakes, hugs, going arm-in-arm, or any action that involves physical contact among the candidate, their companions, and the public,” Comelec said.
It also prohibited taking photos with the candidates as well as giving out food and drinks, among others.
“Taking selfies, photographs and other similar activities that require close proximity between the candidate and their companions, and the public; and distribution of food and drink, and all other goods or items (are prohibited),” read the resolution promulgated on Nov. 24.
The government has banned the entry of travelers from South Africa – where the variant was first detected – and 13 other nations to prevent the Omicron variant from entering the country.
Año said caravans or motorcades were allowed as they were held for a limited time in open areas where the possibility of virus transmission was small.
The poll body also set the allowed capacity for motorcades and caravans based on categories referring to the five-tier alert level system implemented by the government, with Category 1 being the most relaxed and Category 5 being the strictest.
No motorcades and caravans will be allowed under Category 5.
“Only candidates, campaign leaders, and supporters belonging to the same household are allowed to be in the same vehicles,” the Comelec resolution read.