By Erwin Tulfo | Manila Standard
"The continuing pandemic is changing the different aspects of our personal and social life."
At least 15 months to go until the May 2022 national elections, the Commission on Elections said it may prohibit face-to-face campaigning to avoid further transmission of COVID-19 or its variants.
It is another indication of how much the continuing pandemic is changing the different aspects of our personal and social life, including matters of family, work, livelihood, religion, school and politics.
In Davao City, public health officials have enjoined dating couples to observe the minimum health and safety protocols on Valentine’s Day.
That means they should wear face masks, face shields, keep a bottle of alcohol handy, and observe physical distancing.
Students and teachers will have to wait to return to the classrooms for face-to-face classes until 80 million Filipinos are inoculated with anti-COVID vaccines.
Senior citizens over 65 years old and children under age 15 remain on lockdown at home, unless they are traveling to Boracay Island and other tourist destinations which the government allows.
Come 2022, the Comelec says we might be better off avoiding house-to-house campaigning and holding of political gatherings, such as miting de avance for local and national candidates.
We must agree with the Comelec in pushing through the proposed ban on big gatherings despite the anticipated rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks or months.
And I totally agree with Prof. Ranjit Rye of UP-based OCTA Research Group that the flattening of the curve of COVID incidence must be maintained and the number of cases even lowered, even as we wait for the vaccine rollout.
Perhaps, pre-arranged town hall meetings among a limited number of people may be allowed, making sure attendees are inoculated and that health and safety standards are adhered to.
Similar strict health precautions can be observed in candidates’ door-to-door meet-and-greet sorties with the voters.
The Comelec made an important point, encouraging political aspirants for the 2022 elections to take to social media their respective political agenda instead of holding huge rallies.
The different social media platforms such as Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and countless websites have evened out or leveled the playing field for less-moneyed candidates.
In fact, such online platforms contributed significantly in the presidential bid of then Mayor Rody Duterte who had the least TV ads during the 2016 elections.
That suggestion coming from the Comelec must also imply that the poll body would acknowledge and approve the candidacies of poor candidates who have at least access to the internet’s social media.
Comelec should no longer disqualify legitimate aspirants for public office on the basis of “lack of financial ability to mount a serious election campaign.”
I personally know some losing candidates in the 2019 polls who deserved to win but did not have the budget to organize big rallies and buy airtime on major TV networks.
The poll body should now approve the senatorial candidacy of any natural-born citizen of the Philippines, who is 35 years of age on the day of the election, able to read and write, a registered voter, a resident of the country for not less than two years immediately preceding the day of the election, and has at least one million followers on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok.