By Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Leila B. Salaverria | Inquirer.net
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has moved the venue for the filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs) for those eyeing national positions in the 2022 polls from its Manila headquarters to the open grounds of a Pasay City hotel.
Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said on Thursday that a spacious tent would be set up outside Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila between Oct. 1 and 8.
“We are 100-percent [mindful] of health protocols, that’s why we moved to Sofitel because the entrance will be different from the exit and the place is big and we can enforce social distancing,” she said.
Despite the pandemic, the poll body has required candidates for President, Vice President, senator and party list representative to file their COCs in person.
But before they can be allowed into the venue, they and their authorized companions must test negative for COVID-19 and not show any symptoms. Should they test positive or manifest symptoms of COVID-19, they can authorize a representative to file their COC on their behalf. Those running for President, Vice President and senator are allowed up to three companions while a party list group can send one official and a companion who is not necessarily the nominee.
Candidates for local posts may be accompanied by two people when they file their COCs in local Comelec offices.
Only 2 weeks left
As for a request from the Senate to extend the voter registration period by a month or up to Oct. 30, Guanzon said she and the five other Comelec commissioners had yet to discuss it.
So far, the number of registered voters now total around 61 million, with only two weeks left before the Sept. 30 deadline. There was also a proposal from the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) to list candidates’ names on the ballots chronologically—using unique numbers assigned to them—instead of alphabetically.
Guanzon said she was amenable to the proposal that was intended to level the playing field for all candidates.
“My suggestion to Namfrel is to write to the Comelec en banc, to the chair and to all the commissioners—we have our respective emails—so that this suggestion would be included in the agenda,” she said at the Laging Handa briefing.
“Should I vote in the commission en banc, I would be in favor of it,” she added.
According to Guanzon, she liked the idea because it would do away with the advantage of those whose surnames begin with the letter “A.”Namfrel had also said its proposal was meant to discourage the practice of some candidates of using aliases starting with A just to be at the top of the ballot.
It suggested that the Comelec draw numbers randomly to determine which to assign to candidates whose names would then be arranged on the ballot chronologically.
The numbers would be announced at the beginning of the campaign period.
Meanwhile, the poll body will hold another public bidding for the lease of 10,000 additional voting machines, after the lone bidder, Smartmatic, withdrew after finding the Comelec’s P600-million budget too low.
Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said earlier that they would “try to increase” the approved budget for the lease contract because the Comelec wanted to decrease the ratio of voters from 1,000 to 800 people for every voting machine to minimize crowding in poll precincts.
Comelec chair Sheriff Abas said that without additional machines, they might end up extending voting hours.