Manila Standard - ‘2022 elections to forge ahead, COVID or not’

12 February 2021

By Vito Barcelo and Macon Ramos-Araneta | Manila Standard

The Commission on Elections gave assurances Thursday the 2022 national elections would push through even if the threat of COVID-19 remained.

Comelec Chairman sheriff Abas said the Comelec had set the filing of Certificates of Candidacy from Oct. 1 to 8, 2021.

“The May 2022 elections – which would still be automated – will definitely push through. It is Comelec’s mandate to conduct the May 2022 elections. It will push through. The commission is busy preparing,” the poll chief said.

“While the pandemic may not be over by next year and health and safety protocols still to be followed, the elections will push through. In fact, we already have the calendar of activities,” Abas said.

Voter registration for the polls is ongoing and will end on Sept. 30, 2021.

Meanwhile, the campaign period for the March 13, 2021 Palawan Plebiscite has officially started, the Comelec said.

In Resolution No.10687, the Comelec set the Information and Campaign Period from Feb. 11 to March 11,2021.

A total 490,639 voters in Palawan, except Puerto Princesa City, are expected to participate in the plebiscite for the ratification of Republic Act No. 11259, said Comelec Director Teopisto Elna.

Some 8,877 public school teachers will man 2,959 polling places, while 487 support supervisors will serve as marshals in voting centers, Elnas said.

Prohibited acts during the Information and Campaign Period are the removing, destroying, or tampering of lawful plebiscite propaganda; appointment or hiring of new employees, creation of new positions filling of new positions, or giving of salary increases, remuneration, or privileges; construction of public works, delivery of materials for public works, and issuance of treasury warrants or similar devices; release, disbursement, or expenditures of public funds; raising of funds, thru dances, lotteries, cockfights, etc.; and use of armored/land water/aircraft.

For her part, Senator Imee Marcos has called for the swift passage of a law on early voting to complement the government’s mass vaccination program and ensure the smooth and safe conduct of national elections next year.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation, said the roll-out of vaccines alone was “no guarantee that the 2022 elections would not become a multiple, super-spreader event.”

“Planning for elections has become more complicated due to the pandemic,” said Marcos.

lAs our committee report shall be completed shortly, may I urge President Duterte to certify the urgency of passing an early voting law and make a smooth and safe transition of leadership part of his legacy,” Marcos added.

She said the delay in passing such a law denied the Commission on Elections ample time to plan pandemic-related measures and fix a proper budget to put them in place.

“Run-throughs may be needed. Haphazard preparations and resulting voter confusion will undermine the legitimacy of the elections,” the senator added.

Marcos filed Senate Bill 1104 in October last year to allow early voting for senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) but said she intended to include health workers, military and police personnel, poll watchers, and the media when the bill is taken up in the Senate.

“Expanding the list of groups eligible for early voting will reduce crowding on election day and further mitigate the health risks in next year’s polls,” Marcos explained.

“Moreover, new voting precincts that will accommodate fewer people will need to be created and new voting venues identified, to comply with social distancing and other safety protocols,” the senator added.

Arrangements for about 400,000 Filipino seafarers as well as voters returning to the provinces amid the differing quarantine protocols of local government units will also need to be settled, she also said.

Marcos expressed optimism that the “sluggish registration of new voters” would also improve before the September deadline, if a law for early voting is passed.

In 2019, the Philippine Statistics Authority recorded more than eight million senior citizens and PWDs who chose not to cast their votes than flock to polling precincts with the general public.