As political activities ramp up, DILG reminds bets of prohibition on rallies

As political activities ramp up, DILG reminds bets of prohibition on rallies
In this undated photo, soldiers and health workers are seen guarding an anti-COVID-19 checkpoint in Maguindanao province.
Philstar.com / John Unson

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of the Interior and Local Government on Thursday reminded candidates that political rallies are still technically prohibited but acknowledged that "special gatherings" can be held if allowed by the local government unit and if precautions against COVID-19 are followed.

DILG said political rallies could become super-spreader events, especially with the threat posed by the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus. 

"Political rallies are still prohibited. The campaign period has not started yet," Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said in a mix of Filipino and English in a press release. 

"We have been seeing candidates, both national and local, staging political rallies here and there which gather hundreds if not thousands of people," he said as he reminded candidates that the pandemic is not over.

Daily cases in the Philippines have dropped, with the Department of Health reporting 564 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday.

Año said that "special gatherings" are subject to the approval of local government units, the operational capacity of venues and the enforcement of Minimum Public Health Standards like wearing face masks and observing physical distancing.

The DILG said it has allowed caravans and motorcades because these are held for a limited time and are "held in open areas where the possibility of the transmission of the coronavirus is small."

Año said that the Commission on Elections has set the start of the official campaign period on February 8, 2022 for national posts and March 25, 2022 for local elective positions. He said it would be better for candidates to wait until then to hold their political rallies.

"The trouble here is with the low number of COVID-19 cases, many have become complacent. We remind the candidates and the LGUs that political rallies are still prohibited," he said.

Throughout the pandemic, police have been strict at enforcing the prohibition on mass gatherings, with dozens arrested in rallies since March 2020.

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