Authorities on alert as local campaign season begins

Benise Balaoing, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 25 2022 01:13 PM | Updated as of Mar 25 2022 03:47 PM

MANILA - The local campaign season has begun Friday, 45 days before millions of Filipinos troop to polling places to elect the next local and national leaders. 

Police Lt Col. Jenny Tecson of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) said more than 4,000 cops were deployed at the start of the campaign period for local officials in Metro Manila. 

She said policemen will make sure that candidates and their supporters will adhere to minimum public health standards as the country continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Comelec said that 18,023 local posts up for grabs in the upcoming polls. Some 845 candidates are running unopposed, the poll body added. 

As the coronavirus pandemic remains far from over, handshakes, hugs, kisses, going arm-in-arm and other actions involving physical contact are strictly prohibited.

Distribution of food, drinks, and other goods or items are also not allowed, the poll body said.

Caucuses, meetings, conventions, rallies and miting de avance are limited to up to 70 percent of the venue capacity for level 1; up to 50 percent venue capacity for level 2; up to 50 percent capacity for level 3 but only for enclosed outdoor venues; and 30 percent capacity still for enclosed outdoor venues only for level 4.

Candidates are still required to get permits from local government units to mount motorcades, rallies, caravans and miting de avances in areas under COVID-19 Alert Levels 1 and 2, according to Comelec Commissioner George Garcia.

In Quezon City, Mayor Joy Belmonte and her running-mate Vice Mayor Gian Sotto held a Mass at the Quezon Memorial Circle before kicking off their campaign. 

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One of her opponents, Anakalusugan Party-list Representative Mike Defensor, also kicked off his campaign with a religious gathering with his fellow candidates and their families. 

In Marikina City, mayoralty aspirants Marcy Teodoro and Bayani Fernando both skipped a peace covenant signing held by the local Commission on Elections (Comelec). Teodoro's camp said he had another scheduled event to attend to, while Fernando's camp didn't respond to the Comelec.

In Pasig City, Mayor Vico Sotto launched his re-election bid before hundreds of supporters on Friday, in stark contrast to his 2019 campaign rally in a dank vacant lot in Metro Manila's 4th richest city.

Pasig reelectionist Mayor Vico Sotto greets supporters during their proclamation rally inside the Pasig Mega Market on March 25, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Pasig reelectionist Mayor Vico Sotto greets supporters during their proclamation rally inside the Pasig Mega Market on March 25, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Three years since the capital region's youngest mayor ended the 27-year reign of the Eusebio dynasty in Pasig, Sotto now bats for a second term with a vice mayoralty candidate and a 11-strong city council slate, another noticeable disparity compared to his first bid.

In the City of Manila, Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna kicked off her campaign with a motorcade. 

Meanwhile, one of her opponents, Cristy Lim, heard Mass in Tondo before going around the city.

In Cebu City, three aspiring mayors also sought blessings before kicking of their respective campaigns.

Mayor Michael Rama and his Partido Barug distributed t-shirts outside the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.

They walked around the streets of the city, ending up at the city hall where Rama shook hands with employees and some constituents. He also visited the public market. 

Rama, who is under PDP-Laban, has endorsed Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., as his presidential bet.

Margot Osmena of the Bando Osmena Pundok Kauswagan, meanwhile, attended a thanksgiving mass at the Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu. Supporters holding placards also waited for her outside.

Her party, which has longstanding ties with the Liberal Party, has already endorsed Vice President Leni Robredo for president.

Meanwhile, independent candidate Dave Tumulak attended mass at the Holy Cross Parish Church. 

Tumulak, a sitting councilor, gave out face masks with his name on it after the Mass.
 
In the province of Cavite, candidates held motorcades, unity walks, and house-to-house visits on the first day of local campaigns. 

At least 633 individuals are vying for 268 elective posts in Cavite. 

The Palace on Thursday urged local candidates and their supporters to follow pandemic health standards during sorties. 

"We... ask everyone from the candidates to the general public to strictly comply with health and safety protocols and the guidelines set by the Commission on Elections in the conduct of their political activities, including campaign rallies and in-person campaigning," acting Palace spokesperson Martin Andanar said. 

- With reports from Annie Perez, Kat Domingo, and Michael Delizo, ABS-CBN News