2022 elections 'unlikely' to be canceled due to COVID: Comelec spox

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 09 2022 08:59 AM | Updated as of Jan 09 2022 09:08 AM

Participants line up for the COMELEC’s mock elections at the Padre Zamora Elementary School in Pasay City on December 29, 2021. The COMELEC in Pasay allotted 786 participants for the activity in preparation for next year’s elections. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File
Participants line up for the COMELEC’s mock elections at the Padre Zamora Elementary School in Pasay City on December 29, 2021. The COMELEC in Pasay allotted 786 participants for the activity in preparation for next year’s elections. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — The spokesperson of the country's poll body said Sunday he doubts that the 2022 national elections would be canceled even if the country experiences a rise in COVID-19 infections on voting day.

"We think it's unlikely na aabot tayo sa punto na magka-cancel tayo ng elections," Commission on Elections (Comelec) Spokesperson James Jimenez told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo when asked of a "Plan B" in case COVID-19 cases continue to increase on May 9.

(We think it's unlikely that we'll reach a point where we'll cancel the elections.)

The question comes as the Philippines is currently experiencing a new wave of rising COVID-19 infections, suspected to be driven by the highly contagious omicron variant.

Jimenez said that while it is possible to halt the elections in specific areas where electoral board members become infected with the virus, it does not mean that the nationwide polls will be canceled or postponed.

"Posibleng ma-suspend iyong elections for that reason, but only until you're able to get new electoral boards," he said.

(It's possible to suspend the elections if the electoral board are unable to make it due to COVID, but only until you're able to get new electoral boards.)

"Ibig sabihin, kung may electoral board ka na 'di dumating, maghanap ka ng kapalit. 'Pag dumating na iyong kapalit, start na ulit iyong election," he added.

(That means, if you're electoral board can't make it, you have to look for a replacement. Once that replacement arrives, you can start the elections again.)

On Saturday, the Philippines reported 26,458 new COVID-19 cases, the highest since the pandemic began in early 2020.

The sharp increase in coronavirus cases has prompted the government to place Metro Manila and nearby provinces under Alert Level 3 and restrict the mobility of unvaccinated individuals.

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In a bid to limit in-person campaign events, which may become COVID-19 superspreaders, the Comelec is also preparing a website where candidates can hold live-streamed "e-rallies."

The streams will be held on the page "on a nightly basis" starting Feb. 8, the start of the campaign period, Jimenez said, adding that each candidate will be assigned a time slot.

"Kakausapin nila 'yong kanilang supporters sa pamamagitan ng internet, gamit ang livestreaming technology na available naman sa lahat," Jimenez explained.

(The candidates will talk to their supporters through the internet, using livestreaming technology that's available to all of them.)

"Aantabayan ng publiko 'yong kanilang mga kandidatong gustong mapakinggan," he said.

(The public will wait for which candidate they want to listen to.)

The election period in the country began on Sunday, with the police and military setting up checkpoints to enforce a gun ban that would last until June 8.