The Philippine Star : Comelec eyes ‘phases’ in COC filing

18 June 2021

By Delon Porcalla | The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The filing of certificates of candidacies (COCs) for the May 2022 national and local elections could be done in “phases” as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) finds ways to avoid creating super spreader events for COVID-19.

This proposal was floated by Comelec commissioner Marlon Casquejo during yesterday’s online hearing of the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms chaired by Negros Occidental Rep. Juliet Marie de Leon.

While the official period of filing COCs is set on Oct. 1 to 8, conducting it in phases would significantly lower the risk of spreading the virus, said Casquejo.

Last May, Comelec commissioner Antonio Kho said the poll body plans to limit the number of companions of potential candidates filing their COCs to avoid mass gatherings.

“We will definitely implement that. That will be part of our anti-COVID-19 measures during the COC filing. We can probably limit (the allowed persons) to candidates and lawyers or family members to join the actual filing inside the office,” Kho, who heads the new normal committee of the Comelec, said.

He said the Comelec has still no concrete plans yet as far as the COC filing is concerned, but there are already plans on how to ensure that the 2022 presidential elections will be safe, clean and credible.

However, Kho said they cannot allow virtual filing of COCs, explaining that waiving the personal appearance of candidates would need Congress approval.

Former Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal and election lawyer Romulo Macalintal agreed to the Comelec’s plan to control the crowd so that the filing of the COC will not become a super spreader event.

Larrazabal also backed the Comelec’s plan to designate a particular time and date for the filing of the COC based on the position that a potential candidate is seeking in next year’s general elections.

‘Safe from hacking’

Meanwhile, Casquejo gave his assurances to the House panel that Comelec’s Mobile Registration Form App is “safe from hacking.”

He made the assurance after he encountered technical difficulties during the Zoom virtual hearing. The commissioner had a hard time turning on the video on his laptop due to the telco signal’s “poor connection.”

Reacting to Casquejo’s predicament, De Leon said: “It’s okay, but I hope that doesn’t happen during the election.”

House Minority Leader Stephen Paduano, for his part, raised doubts on Casquejo’s confidence in the technological readiness of the Comelec, citing glitches encountered by voter applicants such as the fully booked slots on iRehistro and the long waiting time at Comelec offices.

NAMFREL stays non-partisan

Yesterday, the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) stressed that it remains non-partisan and is not connected with any political group, particularly 1Sambayan, as one report alleged.

“NAMFREL does not support any specific political candidate or party as it remains non-partisan,” it said in a statement posted in its official Twitter account (@Namfrel).

NAMFREL issued the statement as a rejoinder to a June 15 newspaper article linking the election watchdog group to 1Sambayan and impugning its independence. – Robertzon Ramirez