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Comelec aims to finish guidelines for campaigning amid pandemic in October

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The Commission on Elections is eyeing to complete by October 2021 its guidelines for Elekyson 2022 campaigning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee hearing on the Automated Election System on Thursday, Senator Imee Marcos, chair of Senate electoral reforms panel, said there will be another joint hearing as the poll body has still not issued  implementing rules and regulations for campaigning amid the pandemic.

In response, Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said they expect to finish the guidelines next month as they are still asking for recommendations from several experts including the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

"We are gathering feedback from other field offices. Talagang bago po ito, itong pandemic. We also coordinated with other sectors, we coordinated with IATF. Humihingi din po kami ng guidance kung paano house-to-house campaign,"  said Casquejo during the online briefing.

(This is new to us, this pandemic. We are also asking guidance on how to conduct house-to-house campaigning.)

"Anyway, the start of campaign for the national is February pa naman and local is March pa so sisikapin po namin na before the end of october maglalabas na kami ng Fair Elections Act," he added.

(We will make sure that the Fair Elections Act will be released before October's end.)

'Early campaigning'

Meanwhile,  Cavite Representative Elipido Barzaga Jr. asked during the joint hearing if there will be no violations if candidates start campaigning once they filed their certificate of candidacy.

"Legally there will be a violation? No grounds for disqualification for premature campaigning? Just for the clarification of all candidates," asked Barzaga.

Citing the 2009 Supreme Court decision Peñera vs. Comelec, Casquejo affirmed that there will be no disqualification for premature campaigning.

Under the said ruling, political candidates can promote themselves before the scheduled campaign period since they are not yet considered candidates.

"Sad to say, that is correct," Casquejo responded.

Comelec James Jimenez had earlier described the situation as "absurd."

The Comelec set the certificate of candidacy filing from October 1 to 8. After this period, voter registration will continue from  October 11 to 30.

Simulation for 2022 elections

Marcos also asked for updates on the poll body's plan on the allowed number of voters per precinct.

Comelec Elections and Barangay Affairs Department Teopisto Elnas said they are looking for "bigger and better" areas to be used as polling places to ensure that basic health protocols will be followed.

He added that multi-purpose buildings and covered courts may be used as voting centers.

"We will be adjusting. From five, baka gawing 10 or 15. Of course, depending on the size of the classroom," he also said.

Moreover, Elnas said the Comelec is also planning to tap some areas in Dasmariñas City to conduct a voting simulation.

"Initially, mayroon na tayong natukoy. Tomorrow we will be discussing this together with the field operations group, the election officer concerned and the regional director concerned. We are targeting Dasmariñas City Zone 1 Poblacion, Zone 3, Poblacion and that will include four clustered precincts so idi-discuss namin bukas with operational plans," he said.

(We already chose areas where the simulation will be held. We will discuss operational plans tomorrow.) — BM, GMA News

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