Lawmakers call for revisions to Comelec’s ‘new normal’ manual for 2022 polls

Thousands of supporters listen to President Rodrigo Duterte deliver his speech at the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) election rally at the Southern Philippine University of Science and Technology in Cagayan de Oro City on March 24, 2019 Robinson Niñal, Presidential Photo

MANILA – Some lawmakers on Thursday voiced concerns over the Elections Commission (Comelec) ‘new normal’ manual, which would govern activities related to the May 2022 elections, the first under a pandemic.

Representatives of Comelec presented to the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms their guidelines for electoral activities, such as the filing of nomination papers (COCs) next month, electoral rallies and on election day himself.

One of the provisions that lawmakers have found problematic is the power given to local government units (LGUs) to authorize political activity.

The handbook states: “Subject to the requirements of local licensing ordinances, any political party or candidate, individually or in conjunction with other aspirants, may organize peaceful political meetings, rallies, or other similar activities during the campaign period.

Iloilo’s representative, Lorenz Defensor, said this general authority of LGU can cause confusion if Comelec does not impose its own standard.

“There is a provision here that says” subject to local LGU ordinances. ”

Caloocan representative Edgar Erice said the provision is likely to be politicized by incumbent local officials, especially if they are also running in the 2022 election.

“Young local officials are the same as… Gagau has guidelines which have a downside for young opponents nila kaya dapat di galing with local officials,” he said.

(Local officials, most of them will also stand for election …

Erice added that Comelec must define specific rules to avoid this.

“Kapag naging indulgent kayo, maraming gulo ang mangyayari … Hindi pwede talagang walang specific na susundin ang lahat,” Erice said.

Meanwhile, Negros Occidental representative Kiko Benitez questioned Comelec’s decision to limit the capacity of sites for in-person campaign rallies to just 10 percent, while current IATF guidelines allow up to 30 percent.

Comelec commissioner Antonio Kho explained that the manual was prepared with the “worst-case scenario” in mind.

“When we addressed this issue while writing this manual, we are looking at the worst-case scenario. The Napaka-fluid kasi ng COVID situation,” he said.

Erice asked Comelec that political parties receive a copy of the manual and be allowed to comment in order to avoid legal challenges during its implementation.

“Para don sa political parties and other stakeholders para makapag-comment sila … Makikita dito kung ano ‘yung mga problematic provisions,” he asked.

(To be fair to political parties and other stakeholders, so they can comment … You see the problematic provisions here.)

Kho said he would take the suggestion to the en banc Comelec.

The commissioner added that the manual is a “work in progress”.

“Na-approve na po ito ng en banc. We plan to publish a final copy before the end of September … It is a work in progress as we anticipate some changes along the way. We do not know if the pandemic will go away. get worse … It can adapt, “Kho said.

At the same time, Comelec said its “study of time and movement” or the election day simulation is scheduled for September 19.

Studying time and motion is crucial for Comelec to set rules on polling day, where 60 million people are expected to participate while following health and safety protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.

Comelec, Election Commission, halalan 2022, halalan2022, # halalan2022, voters, voters, campaign, campaign period, political activities, en banc

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