The spread of the COVID-19 poses a lot of threats across the globe. It has enormous effects on economic growth, public health, safety, and lastly, it has been creating a knock-on effect on government operations, including elections.
The Philippines is less than a year away from the May elections. Politicians hinting candidacy, voting test runs are gradually being conducted, and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) modifying guidelines while holding the line for the new procedural changes.
The Comelec now has the upper hand in conducting elections that should not provoke injustice nor pose peril amongst Filipinos, as this virus owes the luxury of time to no one.
Moreover, the Comelec has been circulating several guidelines, particularly the physical interaction of candidates to the citizens. In a webinar hosted by the House of Representatives people’s participation panel, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez called the attention of potential candidates that public display of affection will highly be prohibited once the campaign period starts.
It is known that it has been a habit amongst candidates to hug, hold and shake the hands of their constituents as part of creating relationships and establishing trust.
“Public displays of affection (PDA) used to be part of the whole idea of campaigning, as they say. Politicians go out to shake hands and kiss babies…You’re not gonna be able to do that anymore. Because that will certainly be very risky behavior. And yes, that qualifies as PDA and that will have to be strictly regulated,” Jimenez said.
So what should the unprecedented national elections be like?
Comelec starts to drop some of the strict guidelines that candidates should adhere to. No face-to-face campaigning, no shaking of hands, hugging, physically-distanced gatherings, and the like.
So, what’s left for the candidates?
Electoral campaigns play salient roles in an election. With the pressing issues brought by the pandemic, elections may restore democracy but risk public health.
Traditional campaigns may come into pause and the roles in media are more indispensable now more than ever. Filipinos may expect live-streamed debates, campaigns, and other gimmicks that will pressure public relations, but hopefully putting everything to good use.
Senator Kiko Pangilinan sees that face-to-face campaigning still is ideal, and thinks online campaigns are too restrictive.
“I think that’s too restrictive. Perhaps they can prohibit itong large gatherings….Hindi naman ‘di mo pupwedeng harapin yung taumbayan sa kampanya. Paano mo ipapaliwanag (yung plataporma mo)?” Pangilinan argued in an online media forum on his Facebook page.
Furthermore, the assistance that people get from technology may not be ideal in reaching out to people effectively, especially those who don’t have access to the internet.
In an interview of spokesman Jimenez with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), the committee stated how campaigns should be administered, centering on public interest.
To such a degree, this situation will be a major gamble on public health, freedom of expression, and transparency that Comelec has to play.
Aside from online campaigns, candidates also bear pressure on producing online advertisement contents.
Billboards? People have started seeing political billboards months before, so that underlines that it will still be a worthwhile opportunity.
Aside from radio and television advertisements, social media will surely be of great advantage. Especially when the country lost a media giant last year, candidates might just opt for a more effective platform — different group pages, testimonials, and sponsored content will flash on the different social media platforms.
Celebrity political endorsements might also come into play. The Filipino people are no stranger to the different affiliations of political candidates with celebrities and even to brands. Pinoys have already seen big stars in Philippine entertainment go hand in hand supporting their bets in all media outlets.
Digital Vote Buying/ Paid Trolls
In the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines, vote-buying and selling are strictly prohibited. However, in the 2013 elections, Comelec under the late Sixto Brillantes Jr. submitted Resolution 9688, where the committee imposed the so-called “money ban”, limiting unusual cash withdrawals and warrantless arrest against vote buyers and sellers.
Even with the ethical standards presented by law, this phenomenon continues to shake the pure essence of democracy and the right to suffrage.
It will come as no surprise that in this coming May elections, digital vote-buying raises concerns. Who knows, cashless transactions may come in handy.
Comelec and the Philippine National Police (PNP) eye this phenomenon and plead to the public to address this concern.
“Addressing this issue isn’t something that any one of our agencies can actually do by itself. It will have to be a common effort, I think, by all agencies tasked with enforcing this issue,” Jimenez said.
100 million Filipino lives are unparalleled to a PHP 500 ballot — not even the slightest bit.
Certainly, health protocols top the list for next year’s election. Jimenez shared that health screening for voters will be required, isolation areas for suffragists will be stationed, personal protective equipment (PPE) for teachers manning the electoral boards, sanitation supplies, and barriers will be provided accordingly.
Filing of candidacy for all positions will be slated on October 1 to 8, including Saturday and Sunday.
These dates are also scheduled for the filing of the lists of nominees, certificates of nomination and certificates of acceptance of the nomination, and affidavits of existing party-list groups, coalitions, and organizations
The election period will start on January 9 until June 8 of 2022. In this period, standard regulations should be imposed, the gun ban is in effect, like “bearing, carrying or transporting of firearms or other deadly weapons unless authorized in writing by Comelec, is prohibited.”
The campaign period will start on February 8, 2022, for national posts, and March 25, 2022, for local posts.
On October 29, Comelec will start posting the tentative list of candidates for rechecking and confirmation.
From April 10, 2022 to May 9, 2022, overseas voters may cast their votes in the different Philippine embassies, consulates, and other posts “pursuant to the overseas absentee voting system,” Comelec told in a statement
On the election day, Jimenez noted that there might be a possibility of extending the number of hours.
The committee will soon release the final guidelines for the campaign period before the end of the year.
Source: https://pcij.org/article/5349/pandemic-restrictions-2022-elections-eating-may-be-prohibited-at-sorties, https://www.facebook.com/officialkikopangilinan/videos/sen-kiko-pangilinans-interview-with-the-senate-media/707499743461274/