Face-to-face poll ban ruled out

Malacañang said it was still “too early” to discuss the proposal to ban face-to-face election campaigns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government must first start the country’s vaccination program against COVID-19 and would decide based on the outcome of the inoculation program whether to ban the face-to-face elections campaign.

The Commission on Elections earlier raised the possibility of banning face-to-face campaigning for the May 2022 polls to control the spread of new COVID-19 cases.

The Palace official said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases, a policy-making body that provides recommendations to the President related to the pandemic, would also have a say on the matter.

Roque said the Palace respected the Comelec as a constitutional body tasked with the holding and supervision of elections but the issue would be discussed beyond Comelec and would also include the IATF.

Meanwhile, Comelec commissioner Rowena Guanzon said face-to-face campaign activities for the upcoming 2022 elections may still be allowed but with strict health protocols rules.

But Comelec is looking to allow only five voters inside precincts at a time for next year’s elections in case the coronavirus pandemic persists.

In a television interview on Thursday, Comelec chairman Sheriff Abas said this aimed to control the number of people inside voting centers, in compliance with health protocols.

“Our initial plan is that at least five voters at one time will be allowed to vote and we are also planning to add some vote-counting machines. During the elections, there are many people inside schools. That is our biggest hurdle,” Abas said.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said they were looking at mail voting and online voting as an alternative option.

But he said these measures would need approval from Congress.

“Mail voting is a solution that is being proposed. In fact, there’s legislation pending for it but also other means of voting are being considered for instance absentee voting partly for senior citizens and PWDs (persons with disabilities). All of these are proceedings on the legislative front,” he said in a separate television interview.

At the same time, the Comelec official added they were also looking at allowing online campaigning.

“On the part of the Comelec, it is important to understand that yes we intend to open up online campaigning as a viable alternative to in-person campaigning. However, we are more concerned about establishing an even playing field so that everyone gets an opportunity to use online campaigning and online resources and are overwhelmed by candidates with more capability than others,” Jimenez added.

During elections, the campaign period for national positions starts 90 days before the scheduled polls while local candidates are given 45 days to campaign.

Meanwhile, Liberal Party President Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Vice President Leni Robredo was among those being eyed as the party’s standard bearer in the coming 2022 presidential elections.

“She is a top official in the party and is the highest-elected official in the party, so she is also being considered,” said Pangilinan in a Zoom interview.

As the highest elected official in the party, Pangilinan said Robredo serves as LP’s chairperson.

However, Pangilinan said this was not yet final since they were more focused right now in helping the government address COVID-19.

“No one among us has decided on it yet. What we are focused on, like the Vice President, is on the Covid problem, her initiative to aid frontliners, the issue of bringing back jobs, to help consumers, vendors,” stressed the senator.

He also disclosed that Robredo herself had no decision yet on joining the presidential bandwagon.

“She has no decision yet. There’s still a lot that can happen but in the meantime we just focus on how we can help address this pandemic and the economic crisis,” said Pangilinan.

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