July 23, 2024

The Commission on Elections is prepared for the 2022 local and national elections regardless of the quarantine classification of any locality due to the pandemic.
As the Department of Health confirmed community transmission of the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus, Baguio City Election Officer John Paul Martin told the Courier contingency measures are already in place for any eventuality during the entire election period – during the registration of voters, during the casting of votes, and after the elections.
Comelec also signed a memorandum of agreement with social media companies for monitoring of campaign-related posts and advertisements to ensure compliance with the Omnibus Election Code.
Martin said upon filing of certificate of candidacy (COC), all candidates are required to declare all websites and social media pages related to the campaign.
To prevent crowding in Comelec offices, registrants are required to register online first then set an appointment before going to the Comelec to have their biometrics taken.
In the last stretch of the registration from Sept. 1 to 30, Martin said the registration area of Comelec-Baguio will transfer to SM Baguio, which can accommodate more people. The mall management has allowed use of the venue for free and committed to deploy safety officers to ensure that minimum health protocols are followed.
On the filing of COC from Oct. 1 to 8, venue will be at the Baguio Convention Center. Candidates and their companions will first undergo triage at the entrance before proceeding to the desk officers who will pre-assess their COC.
After pre-assessment, the candidate will proceed to the receiving area for stamping of their COC, officially recognizing them as a candidate for the 2022 elections.
Before exiting the venue, candidates may be interviewed at the media booth designated within the convention center.
Media will also undergo triage and only a maximum of two people per outfit will be allowed inside.
Candidates belonging to a political party may be allowed to have a maximum of two companions and one companion for independent candidates.
All who will enter the venue are required to wear medical grade face masks, not cloth masks, Martin added.
Police will also be deployed at the BCC compound to ensure that other supporters who are not allowed inside the venue follow physical and social distancing.
In the event a locality will be declared under enhanced community quarantine or modified ECQ during duration of filing of COC, Martin said the local Comelec will request the local inter-agency task force on the management of emerging infectious diseases to declare prospective candidates as authorized persons outside residence.
In Comelec Resolution 10717, candidates are required to personally file their COC.
Martin said if a candidate exhibits Covid-19 symptoms within the filing period, he/she may issue a notarized authorization letter allowing someone else to file the COC in the candidate’s behalf.
By September, Martin said teachers, who are members of the electoral board (EB), will be required to enroll their signatures to the Department of Information and Communications Technology for conversion into electronic signatures.
In the Election Automation Law, election returns are supposed to bear the digital or electronic signature of an EB to be recognized as the official ballot. Electronic signatures were supposed to have been implemented in the 2019 elections but due to lack of funds, the same was postponed.
The 2022 elections will be the first time electronic signatures will be used.
During the campaign, Martin said the same regulations on expenditure and size of streamers, posters will apply. In case ECQ or MECQ is declared in a certain locality, it will be up to the candidate and their team to strategize how to campaign while under community quarantine.
“They can maximize use of social media in campaigning. The candidates know that there are limitations in movement and face to face interaction because the (Covid-19) virus is still here,” Martin said.
On election day on May 9, Martin said the Comelec en banc might extend the voting hours, but he stressed that voting will be for one day only. The Comelec has yet to announce the voting hours.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, voting schedule was from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the second Monday of May.
During the declaration of winners, Martin said those who will be allowed into the venue are the candidate, the candidate’s lawyer, and one companion.
Monitors will be installed outside the BCC for spectators to watch events inside the venue, Martin said.
The vote counting machines used in the 2019 elections will be the same ones that will be used in 2022, Martin added.
“We will be fully automated, not hybrid,” Martin said.
As part of the preparations for the 2022 elections, Martin said regional elections officers were already reassigned to other regions.
Comelec-Cordillera Director Julius Torres has been assigned to Region 2 while Region 2 Director Ederlino Tabilas is now director for the Cordillera.
Provincial and city election officers will be reassigned in January 2022.
The Cordillera has 992,277 voters as of 2019, but the number of voters is expected to reach more than one million after the Sept. 30 deadline of registration. – Rimaliza A. Opiña