By Edu Punay | The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will ban handshaking, kissing and other gestures with physical contact during the campaign for the May 2022 general elections.
According to Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, the poll body will prohibit what it called “public displays of affection” or PDAs by candidates, as traditionally practiced during the campaign.
During yesterday’s hearing of the House committee on people’s participation on the Comelec’s preparations for the national polls amid the pandemic, Jimenez said PDAs would be strictly regulated and covered by guidelines.
“PDAs used to be part of the whole idea of campaigning. Politicians go out to shake hands and kiss babies. They are not gonna be able to do that anymore because that will certainly be very risky amid the pandemic,” Jimenez told the panel chaired by San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan Rep. Rida Robes.
Apart from PDAs, which will be defined and enumerated in the guidelines, Jimenez said distribution of food during campaign events would also not be allowed.
The Comelec will allow mass gatherings for campaign activities.
“Mass gatherings cannot be banned outright. However, as I said earlier, we can restrict them. Aside from restrictions on attendance and venue capacities, the granting of permits will be limited,” he said.
Jimenez said they would coordinate the matter with the Department of the Interior and Local Government and barangays.
“We will need closer coordination with the barangay health system. Obviously, a lot of the events will be happening at the barangay level and they must ensure the safety of these gatherings,” Jimenez said.
He added the Comelec is preparing the guidelines on media coverage of the campaign.
The poll body said the guidelines aim to protect the safety of both the candidates and the public as the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco called on government agencies to ensure that Filipinos will be able to vote safely in the 2022 polls despite the threat of COVID-19.
He said the pandemic would transform the traditional electoral system, adding that person-to-person campaigning and public hall debates would most likely move to the online sphere.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the Senate should look into the existence of state-funded troll farms.
She said troll farms must be unearthed and condemned.
“Public funds should not be used to spread doubts and sell lies. This is rude to the people, especially at a time when many Filipinos are in need of livelihood and additional health assistance,” Hontiveros said.
Meanwhile, the Comelec has denied the applications for registration of 97 party-list groups to participate in next year’s elections, Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said yesterday.
Guanzon said most of the party-list organizations failed to include their manifestations of intent to join the elections.
The Comelec has yet to release the names of the party-list groups rejected by the poll body. – Robertzon Ramirez, Cecille Suerte Felipe