Business Mirror : Covid-proof 2022 polls, watchdogs urge govt

News & Interviews
12 May 2021

By RODERICK ABAD | Business Mirror

GIVEN the uncertainty as to when the ensuing health crisis will end, more than 2,000 sectoral groups have called on government to move early to ensure the May 9, 2022 National and Local Elections are safe, fair and free from the threats of the ongoing pandemic.

“Lessons from the recently-concluded Palawan plebiscite and from several countries that recently held their elections showed us that it is possible to hold democratic processes successfully amidst the pandemic,” members of civic, academic, youth, women, religious, and other sectoral organizations said in a unity statement.

Some of these groups are Ateneo School of Government, La Salle Institute of Governance, National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS), and Youth Leadership for Democracy (YouthLed) Kabilang Ka Sa 2022 Youth Coalition, among others.

They emphasized the need for an additional allocation of P10 billion to the Commission on Elections so it could integrate ways to Covid-proof the national polls next year.

“This estimate is based on international best practices, and the estimated additional cost the government needed to ensure the safe conduct of the Palawan Plebiscite in March,” the groups said.

To protect the people from contracting Covid-19 while performing their rights of suffrage, they advised that stricter measures be implemented from the beginning of the election period to voting day.

“The Philippines can learn from the best practices of countries that successfully held their elections amidst the pandemic such as Indonesia, Singapore, and the United States,” they stated.

Likewise, the groups appealed to shield the voters from politicking, especially from political aspirants who take advantage of the crisis.

“There is a need to curb the expected rise in vote buying due to the country’s economic conditions. It will also be critical not to politicize impending access to vaccines by making them fairly available to all based on identified needs and criteria. Responsive, prompt, and efficient distribution of financial aid will also help reduce politicizing social development and, consequently, the elections,” they said.

Seeing the need to boost the confidence of Filipino voters to participate in the elections amid the pandemic, they said an extensive information and awareness campaign on safety should be implemented nationwide.

“It is critical to provide accessible and reliable information on the safety measures done to prepare for election day, and to form effective campaigns against disinformation and misinformation that may cause fear and concern among the voters,” they said.

Preparations for the 2022 elections, according to them, must be done in a multi-stakeholder approach.

The groups reiterated that transparency and cooperation can build the legitimacy of this democratic exercise.

“Election stakeholders such as civil society organizations, other government agencies, the youth, and other sectors could be effective partners in developing and implementing appropriate policy measures and regulations for the elections,” they said.