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MANILA, Philippines – An influx of election aspirants trooped to various Commission on Elections (Comelec) offices across the country on the first day of the filing of certificates of candidacy (COC) for the 2023 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) polls.
For some districts in Manila, the Comelec had to impose a cutoff for COC filing applicants on Monday afternoon, August 28, due to huge crowds.
“Those who queued in the morning are equivalent to three days of COC filing. We can’t do it [in one day], given that [the COC filing schedule] is only until 5 pm,” Comelec Chairman George Garcia said on Monday afternoon.
In Quezon City, dozens of candidates fell in line – some of them for hours – outside Amoranto Sports Complex, where COCs were received for all districts.
“We admit we did not anticipate that many people would file their candidacy on the first day,” Garcia said on Monday morning.
“It’s peaceful. As early as 4 am, some were already in line to file their COCs. We are happy, because that means they trust the process,” he added.
There were other hiccups, though. In Taguig City, where the local government is embroiled in a territorial dispute with Makati City, some candidates from the Enlisted Men’s Barrios (EMBO) were surprised by the change in their precinct numbers.
In Manila, an individual tried to file his candidacy for the Sangguniang Kabataan elections even though they were past the age limit of 24. The incident prompted Garcia to warn bad actors of legal action for falsifying documents.
A total of 672,432 seats combined are up for grabs for the long-delayed barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE), which were supposed to be held originally in May 2020, until two laws separately signed by then-president Rodrigo Duterte and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. pushed the schedule to its current date of October 30.
The repeated delays frustrated advocates for clean elections, who said the deferment deprived the electorate of their right to regularly change their leaders.
Premature campaigning prohibited
The Comelec also reminded candidates that they could only woo voters during the campaign period in October.
This came after the commission made a policy shift to reinterpret a landmark Supreme Court ruling that basically enabled premature campaigning. The poll body said the decision only applies to automated elections, not manual elections like the BSKE.
“I hope that after they file their candidacy, they just go home. The voters will not remember you anyway even if you make the rounds now. They will remember you on October 19 to 28,” Garcia said, referring to the campaign period.
The Comelec also vowed to intensify the crackdown on vote buying, but it has yet to approve a draft resolution written by the poll body’s task force against vote buying.
Over 67.8 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots for the barangay polls in October; for the SK polls, the number is at 23.2 million. – Rappler.com