MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) reminded candidates for the 2022 elections to strictly comply with COVID-19 guidelines, amid numerous reports of health protocol violations during campaign sorties.
In-person activities, especially by poll frontrunners, have attracted huge crowds since the campaign season began on February 8, making it difficult for them to follow the guidelines imposed by the poll body.
“It has been brought to our attention that several campaign sorties conducted since the campaign period started have not been compliant with the mandatory face mask and face shield policy, as well as the strict physical distancing requirements,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said in a statement on Tuesday, February 15.
“In case the candidates need reminding, they are responsible for the safety of their staff and supporters,” he added.
Because of the threat of the coronavirus, the poll body released Comelec Resolution No. 10732 in November. It introduced restrictions that were not seen in past elections, some of which are listed below:
- Candidates and campaign leaders must not “enter any private dwelling during house-to-house campaigning,” even if they have the owner’s permission.
- Crowding around the candidate is prohibited.
- Actions that involve physical contact – handshakes, hugs, kisses, and going arm-in-arm – are not allowed.
- Taking selfies, photographs, “and other similar activities that require close proximity between the candidate and their companions in public” is also not allowed.
- Distribution of food, drinks, and other goods and items is prohibited.
- During motorcades and caravans, the vehicles must contain only candidates, campaign leaders, and supporters who are part of the same household.
- Stopovers are also prohibited during motorcades and caravans.
In addition, the Comelec retained the directive to wear face shields at all times, even as the government already made it voluntary in areas under Alert Level 3 and below.
Some critics have said the new guidelines may be open to abuse, and may further confuse the public.
But the Comelec is standing by the policies it set. The poll body said violations are being strictly monitored by its campaign committees, from the municipal to the national level.
Failure to comply with the protocols under Comelec Resolution No. 10732 may be classified either as an election offense, or as a violation of minimum public health standards. Violators may face prison time, fines, or both, the Comelec said.
The poll body has urged the public to report allegations of wrongdoing, and pursue the case to the end. – Rappler.com