By Deighton Acuin

PHOTO: ScoutMag

Malacañang said Thursday it is too early to decide whether to prohibit face-to-face campaigns for the upcoming 2022 national elections as the Philippines is yet to start its COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the government should wait for the outcome of the inoculation program before making a decision to restrict or allow the traditional election campaigning.

Roque added the concern of campaigning will be discussed with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

“I think it’s too early [to say] because we are about to start our inoculation campaign pero [but] I’m sure the issue will be discussed beyond Comelec [Commission on Elections] and will include also IATF,” Roque said in a Palace briefing.

“Let’s wait what will happen to our vaccination campaign dahil mayroon pa naman tayong panahon [because we still have time],” he added.

Earlier, Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Spokesperson James Jimenez said there will be an expected “change in the campaigning landscape” amid the coronavirus pandemic, up to extent that face-to-face campaigns “maybe even prohibited.”

However, COMELEC has yet to coordinate with the IATF regarding the matter.

Meanwhile, Polls Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said the traditional campaigning activities may still be allowed but it must enforce strict health protocols.

Several officials decried the recommendation to restrict face-to-face campaigning. 

Senator Francis Pangilinan said that banning face-to-face campaigns would be “too restrictive,” considering areas and individuals who are lacking internet connectivity access.

“I think that’s too restrictive. Perhaps they can prohibit itong large gatherings….Hindi naman ‘di mo pupwedeng harapin yung taumbayan sa kampanya. Paano mo ipapaliwanag [yung plataporma mo]?” Pangilinan said in an online media forum.

Bayan Muna Partylist also argued that banning such activities may give advantages among rich candidates and may disenfranchise poor candidates.

While recognizing the importance of utilizing campaigning forms for the public to know the contending political candidates, Roque said the pandemic crisis cannot be discounted.

“Sa demokrasya, kinakailangan makilala ng mga taong bayan ang kanilang mga kandidato so lahat ng form ng campaigning would be prefered, kaya lang may pandemya nga at ‘yan ay katotohanan,” he said.

“So tingnan muna natin kung maiibsan natin yung ating problema sa pamamagitan ng bakuna,” he added.

According to COMELEC, the filing of certificate of candidacy will be on October this year, the period of campaigning will start on January 9, 2022.

The government is set to start the vaccination by February, which eyes to inoculate atleast 70 million of Filipino population.

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