MANILA - Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesperson James Jimenez on Friday said an alternative mode of voting for May 9, 2022 elections could not be adopted in the absence of a law.
This came after the health department earlier in the day cautioned the agency in allowing COVID-19 patients to vote in person for next year's polls, as it may lead to further transmission of cases.
This includes the possibility of casting ballots virtually or through SMS, according to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.
But Jimenez emphasized that the possibility remained bleak as of the moment.
“As to the possibility of alternative means of voting, unfortunately these are not authorized by law and will not be employed on 9 May 2022," he said in a text message.
Jimenez also clarified that isolation polling places (IPPs), which would be set up by the poll body on election day, are intended to accommodate voters who would have COVID-19 symptoms.
These IPPs, he added, are also places where they "can vote away from the general public, with all the necessary precautions appropriate to their health condition.”
This is not for COVID-19 patients in quarantine or in medical facilities, according to him.
“The Comelec welcomes... Vergeire’s statement regarding the possibility of voting by COVID positive voters. We wish to reassure Usec. Vergeire that the Comelec is fully cognizant of the risks - both to the patient and the public - associated with making a COVID positive person go out to vote," he explained.
The proposal of requiring COVID-19 patients to vote and "leave their isolation facilities was never really on the table."
"This misapprehension may have simply arisen from statements made by Comelec to the effect that isolation polling places are being prepared," Jimenez said.
"To be clear, such IPPs are intended to serve persons who present symptoms upon their arrival at voting center on Election Day. While these persons may indeed turnout to be COVID positive, they will not be turned away automatically just because they are suspected to be potential cases," according to the official.
“To reiterate- the IPPs are not intended to be polling places for persons who are confirmed to be COVID positive and are, on Election Day, supposed to be in quarantine."