Comelec: Political parties must ‘police themselves’ in campaigns during pandemic

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 05 2021 07:25 PM

Comelec: Political parties must ‘police themselves’ in campaigns during pandemic 1
Election campaign posters cover the walkways in Manila on May 4, 2018. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - Political parties will be given enough leeway to "develop their own guidelines" and "police themselves" while campaigning during the COVID-19 pandemic, an official from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Friday.

The Comelec will "prescribe some regulations" on campaigning amid the global pandemic, but candidates could be asked to "police their own selves," James Jimenez, the Commission's spokesperson, told ABS-CBN News.

"Ang concern natin dito is the minute you report some restrictions will be put in place, the knee jerk will be . . . 'Bakit niyo kami pipigilan magkampaniya?'" he said.

(Our concern here is the minute you report some restrictions will be put in place, the knee jerk will be, "Why are you stopping us from campaigning?")

"That's the reason why aside from perusing regulations and imposing guidelines, we're also eager to see how political parties will
develop their own guidelines, their own standards for safety in campaigning," he said.

The Comelec is planning to "prescribe some regulations and restrictions on face-to-face campaigning" to make sorties "safer for ordinary people who will attend," Jimenez said.

"Limiting the number of participants in campaign sorties, social distancing is required."

The policy will be based on existing laws that recommend the imposition of health protocols during the global pandemic, he added.

"There are no electoral laws penalizing the holding of a campaign during a pandemic," Jimenez said.

"We have to rely on other existing penalties. Doon natin babalangkasin ang enforcement (That will be the basis of the enforcement)."

The Comelec will begin discussing presidential debates with its usual media partners next month, he said.

"We are still gonna work with old partners but we might adopt a different scheme kung saang 'yung quality ng production ay hindi varied (where in the quality of production is not varied)," he said.

There have been observations that the production value and substance of the 2016 presidential debates differed depending on which media company was hosting it, he said.

There were also suggestions to increase the airtime for campaign advertisements to help candidates make up for limited face-to-face interaction with voters, the Comelec spokesperson said.

"It's not up to Comelec . . . If there is gonna be an increase, it will have to come from Congress," he said.

Jimenez earlier said candidates in the 2022 polls might need to focus heavily on online campaigning instead of doing campaign rallies.

"It won't matter how COVID-safe the actual election day is if campaign pa lang people are already spreading the virus through careless and irresponsible acts," he said.

Malacañang officials have said that it is still "too early" to consider banning face-to-face campaigns for the 2022 presidential elections.

"We're weighing everything against the possibility of COVID transmission," Jimenez said.

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