By Tristan Nodalo | CNN Philippines
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 27) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is looking at the scenario that the coronavirus pandemic is here to stay until the 2022 national elections.
Speaking at the ‘Democracy Goes On; Elections and Electoral Continuity Post-COVID-19’ forum on Tuesday, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez revealed that there are six major considerations in order to ensure the safety of the public in the conduct of the national polls.
Since the possibility of hybrid elections is off the table based on the pronouncement of several lawmakers, Jimenez said that preparing for full automated polls is a bit challenging.
In previous elections, Comelec warehouses are filled with people programming the vote counting machines ahead of the polls, but now the poll body must ensure the safety of workers in these work areas through proper ventilation.
According to Jimenez, the filing of the certificate of candidacy (COC) is comparable to a family affair. And with the national elections coming, the Comelec fears that huge supporters will be trooping to their offices and could lead to coronavirus spread.
The Comelec is considering the possibility of online filing of COCs to prevent possible influx of people and as part of COVID-19 safety measures.
The Comelec also sees the traditional election campaign as one of the biggest challenges in the 2022 polls amid the pandemic.
Jimenez said with the way campaigning is done in the country, which always involved huge crowds and motorcades, it is a potential superspreader.
Queuing to vote
Jimenez said the Comelec is also taking into account the danger of people trooping to polling precints on election day, with more people loitering and waiting around that should be altered.
He said the poll body will also look into the safety of polling centers which are usually conducted in schools.
Jimenez said that polling places have to be redesigned in order to meet minimum health standards and there is also a need for constant disinfection of surfaces on election day.
Canvass and proclamation sites
Another key concern is the canvass and proclamation sites, where Comelec said a lot of people would be watching and people will gather in these areas for a long period of time.
With about 60 million Filipinos eligible to vote in 2022, Jimenez said there should be a "whole-of-nation" approach to ensure that the national elections would be safe and credible.
He said the Comelec cannot do it alone and there are some interventions needed in the conduct of the much-anticipated national elections, one of which is the possibility of modifying or extending voting hours.
The poll body also urged political parties to come up with their own COVID-19 safety protocols for the safety of their supporters and voters.