MANILA— The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will allow Halalan 2022 candidates to hold physical rallies, door-to-door campaigns, and other similar political activities, based on guidelines spelled out in the poll body's 250-page "new normal" manual obtained by ABS-CBN News.
"Subject to the requirements of local ordinances on the issuance of permits, any political party or any candidate, individually or jointly with other aspirants, may hold peaceful political meetings, rallies or other similar activities during the campaign period," the manual read.
The final draft, submitted to the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, requires the number of attendees in an in-person campaign rally, including members of the media, to be within 10 percent of venue capacity.
RALLIES, MEETING, OTHER POLITICAL ACTIVITIES
The manual states only a maximum of 3 candidates should be present at a rally, meeting, and other similar events, and each candidate’s organizing staff should not exceed 10 individuals.
The organizing staff shall be responsible in ensuring that the 10 percent attendee limit is observed.
Only persons aged 18 to 64 years old are allowed to personally attend, and seating must be at least one meter or two seat-widths apart in all directions.
Before entry, attendees are required to accomplish and submit contact tracing forms - online or in-person - which shall be submitted to the local Comelec office within 24 hours from conclusion of the event.
Attendees must wear their face masks and face shields at all times, even when speaking, and refreshments are prohibited.
The organizers are required to deploy "COVID-19 marshals" who shall check compliance with health protocols and the guidelines at all times.
The organizing staff shall submit a Statement of Compliance with Health Protocols to the Comelec.
Door to door campaigning or walkabouts in communities shall also be carefully carried out and subject to strict guidelines.
Each candidate is allowed a maximum of five walkabout groups, with a maximum of five persons in each group.
A maximum of five candidates are allowed to conduct door to door campaigning at the same time in a barangay.
Each group shall have no in-person contact with the other groups.
Strict adherence to minimum health protocols shall be observed by candidates and the rest of his/her group, and the public.
The candidates and their walkabout groups shall be responsible for adherence to health protocols during the campaign.
All interactions with residents and supporters “shall be brief, transient, and with minimal physical contact.”
A Statement of Compliance with Health Protocols must be submitted by the candidates’ camps to the Comelec, within 24 hours from conclusion of the door-to-door campaign.
The candidates or organizer/s of the campaign are required to execute an Affidavit of Compliance with Health Protocols with appropriate health authorities in the village.
VIRTUAL RALLIES AND LIVESTREAMS
As part of innovations to adapt to the pandemic, the Comelec Education and Information and Education Department (EID) shall provide a platform for free livestreaming of e-rallies of national candidates.
Each presidential, vice-presidential and senatorial candidate and party-list organization shall be allotted e-rally time.
At the start of the election period, on January 9, 2022, the EID shall release a schedule of e-rally time slots; the slots shall be assigned at random, based on the results of a televised raffle on January 8, 2022.
Beginning February 6, 2022, two days before the official start of the campaign period, e-rallies shall be livestreamed every night on all Comelec official social media channels and accounts.
Three presidential and three vice presidential candidates with 10-minute slots, five senatorial bets with 3-minute slots, and 10 party-list candidates with 3-minute slots will be aired every night.
Candidates are allowed to see live comments to his livestream, and may or may not respond to the comments.
"All e-rallies shall include a disclosure that identifies it as a political meeting or rally, confirms compliance with minimum health protocols, and providing the relevant date, time, and location information," the Comelec's draft rules said.
“For this purpose, a livestream on the candidate’s social media platforms shall be considered a political meeting or rally,” the manual added.
A maximum of two candidates shall be physically present in the same location at the time of the livestream.
Candidates may receive in-platform gifts and game currency, which “need not be reported in the candidates’ SOCE (statement of contributions and expenditures).”
However, they are not allowed to give gifts to the audience nor run promotions and campaigns that will award in-platform gifts or game currency.
Recordings of candidates’ e-rallies shall be submitted to the EID within 72 hours from airing.
The Comelec has yet to release guidelines for the conduct of televised and/or livestreamed political debates.
The manual may be revised at any time by the Comelec, depending on the prevailing COVID-19 conditions in the country as declared by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), the Department of Health (DOH), and other relevant government authorities.
Members of the House suffrage panel will schedule a meeting next week to discuss the manual, and give their feedback and inputs.
Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice said the in-person campaign guidelines will be difficult to observe in highly urbanized cities and congested communities.
"Parang mahirap i-apply 'yan sa mga highly urbanized cities. For example, 'yung Caloocan, ang mga bahay dito mga 10 square meters, dikit-dikit, actually wala namang social distancing sa mga poor communities, ang daming poor communities dito," Erice said.
Erice stressed he prefers in-person over virtual campaigning because personally meeting constituents allows candidates to discuss key issues, and is less costly.
"Ang pinakamabigat d'yan siyempre sa election 'yung discussion of the isssues- kung walang discussion of the issues, hindi eleksyon 'yan. So kinakailangan mo ng mga caucauses... At di mo naman maaasahan 'yung social media. Imagine, hundreds of thousands of candidates na makikipag-agawan sa FB… I don’t think that’s possible," Erice said.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. said candidates would have to “innovate” so as not to violate protocols.
For its part, election and voter advocacy group Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) maintained crowded activities must be avoided.
The committee has yet to decide on the date for next week’s meeting, which shall be dedicated to discussions concerning the "new normal" manual.