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Government urged to make 2022 polls âCOVID-19 proofâ
The undated photo shows a voter shading his choice of candidate on a ballot during testing of voting machines at a clustered precinct in Baguio City.
Andy Zapata Jr., file

Government urged to make 2022 polls ‘COVID-19 proof’

Sheila Crisostomo, Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 11, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — In a unity statement, more than 2,000 civic, academic, youth, women, religious and other sectoral groups have urged the government to make sure that the May 2022 elections will be “COVID-proof” safe, fair and free for all.

“Lessons from the recently concluded Palawan plebiscite and from several countries that recently held their elections showed us that it is possible to hold democratic processes successfully amid the pandemic,” the groups said in a unity statement issued at a forum organized by the Ateneo School of Government.

The groups also stressed the need to provide an additional P10 billion so the Commission on Elections (Comelec) can make appropriate measures to “COVID-proof” next year’s elections.

“This estimate is based on international best practices, and the estimated additional cost the government needed to ensure the safe conduct of the Palawan Plebiscite in March,” the statement read.

The groups also appealed to protect voters from COVID-19, politicking and make access to vaccines “fairly available to all based on identified needs and criteria.”

The unity statement noted that the Philippines could learn from the best practices of countries that successfully held their elections amid the pandemic such as Indonesia, Singapore and the United States.

Extended voting hours

Comelec Commissioner Antonio Kho disclosed yesterday that it is “almost sure” voting hours in the May 2022 polls will be extended.

“We will still discuss how long is the extension. It would be extended probably up to 10 or even 12 (hours). Chances are, it would be a one day election but extended period. Probably, additional two to three hours,” he added. In previous polls, the voting period ran from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Kho also said Comelec will put up a website featuring the candidates’ basic information and platform of government. Voters can easily access the platform that will probably include a 30-second video profile.

To allow more space for physical distancing, Comelec is planning to lower the number of voters per clustered precinct from the previous 1,000 to only 800, depending on availability of vote counting machines (VCMs).

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body will allow the conduct of satellite voter registration again, in an effort to decongest Offices of Election Officers (OEOs) swarmed by voter registration applicants.

Break

Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson appealed for a “much-needed and long-overdue break from corruption and political bickering” as the country struggles with the pandemic, economic woes, growing national debt and the West Philippine Sea issue.

“Can they at least forget about their greed during the pandemic? I am not saying they can resume their corrupt ways once the pandemic is over, but especially during this period when we face so many problems, they should pause if they cannot stop,” he said.

“Our political divide is very deep but we must set aside our differences. We have only one country and the national interest must come first. The national interest is for all Filipinos, not just for certain groups or parties,” Lacson said.

COVID-19 ELECTION
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