President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to give candidates space to campaign amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I'd like to remind the Comelec that you must give the candidates really the space and whatever modality there because there can never be an election without a campaign," Duterte said in his weekly Talk to the People.
"Some candidates cannot afford the expense of TV exposure," the President said.
"'Yan ang problema ng Comelec kung papayagan nila tayong mag-assemble because we cannot campaign by just shouting at one corner. You have to have a place where maybe they would limit the attendance or the number of people there," he added.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez on Wednesday said the poll body agrees with Duterte, and will allow in-person campaigning even amid the pandemic.
"Sang-ayon po kami diyan. Katulad ng nababanggit natin before, papayagan naman po natin ang in-person campaigning, 'yung pangangampanya ng pisikal," Jimenez said in an interview on GMA News' Unang Balita.
(We agree with that. As what we said before, we will allow in-person campaigning or physical campaigning.)
Rules will soon be issued for in-person campaigning, he said.
"So magkakaroon tayo ng rules na magsasabi kung ilan ang puwedeng lumahok sa mga campaign rally depending on the alert level in a particular place," Jimenez said.
(So we will have rules that will specify how many can participate in a campaign rally depending on the alert level in a particular place.)
"So kunyari, kung mahigpit ang alert level doon, e 'di mas konti ang puwedeng mag-attend doon sa mga rally. Kung mas maluwag, mas marami," he added.
(So for instance, the alert level in a particular area is higher, lesser people will be allowed to attend a rally. If alert level is lower, then more can attend.)
As to pre-campaign activities of aspirants such as caravans and visits to provinces which may become COVID-19 super spreader events, Jimenez said these are not under the Comelec's jurisdiction.
"Napapanood po natin 'yan. Ang malungkot po ay hindi po 'yan sakop ng authority ng Comelec dahil hindi pa pumapasok ang campaign period. February pa po [ang umpisa]," he said.
(We have seen those [events on TV]. What is sad is that those events are not under the authority of Comelec because the campaign period has not yet started. It will start in February .)
"Kaya nananawagan kami sa mga LGU at sa IATF. Kasi sa totoo lang, 'yang mga 'yan, hawak nila ngayon 'yan. Sa poder nila 'yan. So kung meron dapat sumita diyan, sila," the Comelec spokesperson said.
(That's why we are appealing to local government units and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. In truth, these [events] are under their jurisdiction. So if there is someone who has to call them out, it's them.)
Jimenez also said the giving of cash assistance by aspirants cannot be considered vote buying yet because again, the campaign period has yet to start.
"Hindi pa rin ['yan vote buying]. Again dahil hindi pa official candidates 'yang mga 'yan. Wala pang aspirant na umangat sa level ng official candidate kasi nga hindi pa nagsisimula ang official campaign period," he clarified.
(That is not yet considered vote buying. Again because they are not yet official candidates. No aspirant has moved up to the level of official candidate yet because the official campaign period has not yet started.)
Last month, presidential aspirant Senator Manny Pacquiao admitted that he distributed money at an event in Batangas but denied it was vote buying. The event drew crowds, overwhelming local cops. —KG, GMA News