By Gabriel Pabico Lalu | Inquirer.net
MANILA, Philippines — The upcoming 2022 national elections would be different than the others due to the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which a Commission on Elections (Comelec) official believes would make candidates rely heavily on social media campaigns.
Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said on Thursday that she doubts the country can actually achieve herd immunity before the 2022 polls in May 2022, adding that not even half of the 60 million registered voters may be vaccinated against COVID-19 by that time.
As this is the case, large crowds in rallies and face-to-face campaigning may not be done widely especially for national candidates. The drawback, Guanzon said, is that it would be difficult for Comelec to track the campaign expenditures.
“The May 2022 elections will be an election like no other because we are facing a pandemic, and by May 2022 we will not have achieve herd immunity. I doubt if even one-half of our voting population would be vaccinated,” she stressed during the #MagparehistroKa virtual town hall meeting hosted by Vote Pilipinas.
“It is an election like no other because the rules of the game must change, the method of campaign will have to change. We can’t do face-to-face, I mean you can’t do a big crowd, rally, and so there’s a a lot of reliance on social media as a campaign platform which is difficult for Comelec to compute in terms of campaign expenses,” she added.
As such, Guanzon said that Comelec is hoping that experts in the field would be able to help the commission in tracking down expenses on social media, like expenditures for non-organic advertisements.
“We’re hoping of course that the experts will be able to help us […] We don’t have yet, but we are trying to look for a way to compute ads through social media like Facebook or Twitter, so that’s one big project really that I would like to see done before I retire on February 2 next year,” Guanzon shared.
“We cannot regulate the use of social media because we don’t have the technology to do that, but I think we can compute the expenses if Facebook will help or Twitter will help,” she explained.
At the same time, she revealed that they are actually proposing some changes to how campaign spending would be monitored and tallied. According to Guanzon, Comelec is exploring the possibility of campaign ads being tallied as soon as the candidate files his certificate of candidacy.
“There are some reforms that we would like to do, one of them is that for computing campaign expenses, we would like, I think the majority of us agree that once the candidate files their certificate of candidacy then that’s the time the clock starts ticking for campaign finance, so all the expenses should be counted from the time, immediately upon the submission of the certificate of candidacy,” she added.
In terms of the COVID-19 pandemic, national government officials said that over three million individuals have been fully vaccinated against the disease. This means of the 12.4 million doses administered as of Wednesday, 9.399 million were first doses while the remaining ones were second doses.
The Philippine government is looking to usher in herd immunity by the end of 2021 to kickstart the economy, but it appears to be a bleak goal with the current vaccinations.
Health experts believe that herd immunity may be attained by vaccinating around 70 percent of the population. With the country’s population now at 109 million, the target vaccinated individuals would be 76.3 million — 73 million short of the country’s current numbers.
Despite the setbacks to gatherings and herd immunity, Guanzon still believes that the current elections would be intense, diverse, and a hotly-contested one.
“In the last elections, the country — the voters or the people were extremely polarized eh, talagang either do’n ka or dito ka, the lines were clearly drawn and the method of the campaign even through Facebook was fierce. So when you use a lot of social media for campaigning, then the behavior of people also change, because they think that they cannot be seen,” she noted.
“It’s not heating up yet because it’s not yet the time for filing of certificates of candidacy, but you will feel it by August,” she added.