ABS-CBN News : Comelec: Negative COVID-19 tests not required for those filing COC for local government posts

News & Interviews
1 October 2021

By Vivienne Gulla | ABS-CBN News

MANILA—Unlike aspirants for national positions in the 2022 elections, those filing a certificate of candidacy for local posts are not required to present a negative COVID-19 test result, the Commission on Elections said Thursday.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez issued the clarification during the joint congressional oversight committee meeting on the automated election system. The period for filing COCs is from October 1 to 8, 2021.

“Ang antigen testing po natin ay required for national candidates, but it’s not required for local candidates,” Jimenez said.

“Ang antigen testing . . . is only required dito po sa Sofitel, dito sa filing for the national positions.”

The Comelec will hold the COC filings for those seeking national posts at a Sofitel tent in Pasay City, instead of the traditional venue at its national headquarters in Intramuros, Manila.

“Hindi required? So kami, kahit medyo inuubo kami at may sipon, OK lang kami, we can file?” Dasmariñas Rep. Elpidio Barzaga asked.

Jimenez replied: “Kailangan po naka-face mask at naka-face shield po.” 

The Comelec said those filing COCs for President and Vice President are allowed to take only 3 companions. Senatorial and local aspirants, meanwhile, could take only 2. 

Individuals who are filing for party-list organizations will be allowed a member in their entourage.

Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo warned against turning the COC filing into a “fiesta” atmosphere.

“We do not allow fiesta type of filing outside the office of the election officer or any venue kung saan pinili ng ating election officer to have the filing of COC. There would be a crowd management in coordination with the Philippine National Police,” Casquejo said.

Casquejo, meanwhile, told lawmakers the poll body is still drafting the rules for campaigning and voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic and expects it to be out before the end of October.

Under the proposal, the COMELEC will provide a platform for free livestreaming of e-rallies of national candidates.

“E-rally airtime shall be allotted to each presidential, vice presidential, and senatorial candidate, party-list organization participating. Livestreaming of e-rallies shall be conducted every night beginning Feb. 6, 2022 on the official social media channels of the Comelec,” Comelec director Esmeralda Ladra said.

“There shall be 3 presidential and 3 vice presidential, 10-minute slots every night, and 5 senatorial three-minute slots, and 10 partylist 3-minute slots per night.”

A maximum of 5 persons in a walk-about group campaigning house-to-house, and a maximum of 5 walk-about groups campaigning at the same time in a barangay, depending on the village’s size, were also proposed.

“Hindi po yata pinapayagan na magsama-sama ang mga kandidato,” Ladra said.

Barzaga questioned the proposal to allow only 3 candidates at a time in a campaign rally.

“Tatlong kandidato lang ang pwedeng magsalita sa isang campaign rally na ang audience is only 10% of the capacity of the place. Paano ang lineup, hindi makakapagsalita? Magse-set na naman ng another night for 3 persons?” he asked.

Sen. Imee Marcos added: “Kung ang laki-laki naman ng stadium, halimbawa, bakit naman tatatlo, eksaherado naman na physical distancing po ’yun.”

Casquejo responded: “We really have to check again or revisit the (proposed) new normal (rules) submitted by Dir. Ladra. Even in the IATF rules, it will be based on the size of venue. Depending on the status level of that particular date of rally. If it allows 50%, we will allow 50%. If it allows 10%, then we will allow 10%.”

He said the draft rules are not yet final and that the Comelec is still open for recommendations, and consulting with the IATF.

Barzaga asked whether incumbent local government officials providing aid to those affected by the pandemic using public funds during the campaign period would constitute a violation of the Comelec rules.

“Panahon ngayon ng pandemic, at marami sa ating mga tao ang nagugutom. Kung magbigay ng ayuda ang local government, not for political reasons, but because of the need of constituents, and the giving shall happen during the campaign period, ano ang desisyon d’yan ng Comelec? Will there be a violation or none?” Barzaga asked.

Casquejo answered: “I think that kind of situation . . . that falls under the exception to the rule,” 

“May mga susundin lang na rules na without the presence of the candidates while distribution and without the name and face of candidates in the ayuda na ibibigay.”

The Comelec is scouting for bigger voting venues to ensure physical distancing and safety of voters on election day.

Casquejo said that while the poll body prefers that teachers who will participate in the elections are fully vaccinated, below 60 years old, and without comorbidities, these are not mandatory.