Safety first: Comelec explains guidelines on in-person campaigning

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 29 2021 10:49 AM

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MANILA – A unified approach to the pandemic is needed, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Monday, as it explained why it patterned its in-person campaigning guidelines after the COVID-19 response task force’s alert level system. 

The poll body last week released its "new normal" face-to-face campaigning guidelines specifically crafted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the guidelines, caucuses, meetings, sorties and caravans are allowed at limited capacities, depending on the area’s alert level classification from the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on COVID-19.

“The alert level of the IATF is a ready-made system that already, is already based on science. And ultimately, they will have more resources to determine whether or not a particular alert level is appropriate for a specific place,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said. 

“Our intention of course is to make sure that the campaign restrictions are calibrated to these standards that they’ve already set,” he added.

Jimenez said it is important that government agencies do not contradict each other in terms of handling the pandemic. 

“I think it’s important to have a unified approach to the pandemic, meaning to say government agencies can’t be contradicting each other, right?” he said.

“To the extent that we want to make sure candidates have as much opportunity to communicate with the public as possible, then, we’ll push back. But, ultimately, we will have to fall in line behind the health authorities,” he added. 

Jimenez said they’ve already received reactions to their guidelines on campaigning amid the pandemic.

“They’re coming in trickles, we’ve already had a few early reactions, but I think we’ll have more as the days go by, people perhaps need time to digest all of these rules, it is a huge deal to process I suppose.”

“But again as I said there have been early reactions to some of the more, shall we say splashy parts of these provisions. This list of prohibited acts, for example, this has been garnering a lot of attention online so we’re taking all of these comments and we will respond to them in the proper time,” he said.

Violations of the Comelec’s in-person campaigning guidelines shall constitute as an election offense.

These offenses are punishable with 1 to 6 years imprisonment, without possibility of probation; disqualification from holding public office and deprivation of the right to suffrage; if a foreigner, the violator shall be sentenced to deportation which shall be enforced after service of prison term.

Any political party found guilty of violating any of the guidelines shall pay a fine of not less than P10,000.

--ANC, 29 November 2021