Virtual campaigns among researchers’ recommendations for COVID-free elections

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Virtual campaigns among researchers’ recommendations for COVID-free elections
File photo shows various election posters.
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — To ensure that the 2022 elections will be free from the threat of COVID-19, candidates for elective posts might want to consider campaigning virtually, researchers said.

Academics presented Friday various policy recommendations to keep next year’s polls COVID-free during a forum hosted by the La Salle Institute of Governance, including pivoting to online campaigns to reduce physical interactions which may lead to infections.

“There is a need to adopt measures that limit physical contact, promote physical distancing, encourage the use of virtual platforms, and setting of health standards in designated campaign areas and activities,” said Ian Jason Hecita, the lead policy research specialist of the La Salle Institute of Governance.

Gerardo Eusebio, a professorial lecturer at the Department of Political Science and Development Studies at the De La Salle University, said there should be stricter limitations on in-person campaigning of local candidates which would be based on the COVID-19 alert levels and even more stringent curbs for national candidates.

“In-person campaigns for national candidates should be more strictly limited if not outright banned so that cross-territorial infections can be avoided,” Eusebio said.

Preventing crowding is certainly at the top of mind of researchers, so Hecita also recommended extending voting hours to reduce the number of people present at polling places.

He also said that the Commission on Elections should consider making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory or incentivized for all poll workers and election support personnel.

Both Hecita and Eusebio said that there should be a contingency plan for the elections to continue even in worst-case scenarios such as lockdowns or disasters.

For Eusebio, this also entails reforming the electoral process in the country to allow for alternative voting arrangements such as mail-in and early voting.

As it stands, the Comelec has already prohibited physical contact during in-person campaigns, which it has limited depending on the alert level prevailing in an area.


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