By Rjay Zuriaga Castor


Amidst the raging COVID-19 pandemic, President Rodrigo Duterte has urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday, November 9, to give 2022 election candidates a safe space where they could campaign safely. 

"I'd like to remind the Comelec that you must give the candidates really the space and whatever modality there [is] because there can never be an election without a campaign," Duterte said in his taped weekly address, "Talk to the People".

Duterte further reiterated that there are candidates who "cannot afford the expense of TV exposure."

The president underscored that the Comelec must address how election-related assemblies would be conducted, such that only limited people will be allowed. 

"'Yan ang problema ng Comelec kung papayagan nila tayong mag-assemble because we cannot campaign by just shouting at one corner. You have to have a place where maybe they would limit the attendance or the number of people there," he noted. 

Responding to the president's request, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez in an interview on GMA News' Unang Balita on Wednesday said the poll body also agrees with Duterte, adding that guidelines for the in-person campaigning will soon be issued.

"Sang-ayon po kami diyan. Katulad ng nababanggit natin before, papayagan naman po natin ang in-person campaigning, 'yung pangangampanya ng pisikal," Jimenez said. 

"So magkakaroon tayo ng rules na magsasabi kung ilan ang puwedeng lumahok sa mga campaign rally depending on the alert level in a particular place," he added. 

Since mass gatherings such as election rallies were deemed as COVID-19 spreader events, Jimenez noted the Comelec will consider the alert level of areas in allowing a traditional election campaign. 

"So kunyari, kung mahigpit ang alert level doon, e 'di mas konti ang puwedeng mag-attend doon sa mga rally. Kung mas maluwag, mas marami," he added.

Jimenez, however, clarified that pre-campaign activities of aspirants such as caravans and visits to provinces are beyond the Comelec's jurisdiction.

"Napapanood po natin 'yan. Ang malungkot po ay hindi po 'yan sakop ng authority ng Comelec dahil hindi pa pumapasok ang campaign period. February pa po [ang umpisa]," the Comelec spokesperson said.

The Comelec spokesperson appealed to the local government units (LGU) and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to call out those who do not follow the protocols, as it is under their jurisdiction. 

"Kaya nananawagan kami sa mga LGU at sa IATF. Kasi sa totoo lang, 'yang mga 'yan, hawak nila ngayon 'yan. Sa poder nila 'yan. So kung meron dapat sumita diyan, sila," the Comelec spokesperson said.

The Comelec earlier in October said that it will release the final list of candidates for the 2022 elections in December, after the removal of the names of all nuisance candidates.

Report source: GMA News