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Comelec eyeing ‘5 voters at a time’

The Commission on Elections is looking to allow at least five voters inside precincts at a time for next year’s elections in case the coronavirus pandemic persists.

In a television interview yesterday, Comelec chairman Sheriff Abas said this aims to control the number of people inside voting centers, in compliance with health protocols.

“Our initial plan is at least five voters at one time will be allowed to vote and we are also planning to add some vote-counting machines. During the elections, there are many people inside schools. That is our biggest hurdle,” he said.

Abas, however, said they are coming up with other ways to allow people to exercise their right to suffrage without sacrificing their safety amid the pandemic.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said they are looking at mail voting and online voting as alternative options.

He, however, said these measures will need approval from Congress.

“Mail voting is a solution that is being proposed. In fact, there’s legislation pending for it but also other means of voting are being considered, for instance, absentee voting partly for senior citizens and persons with disabilities. All of these are proceedings on the legislative front,” he said in a separate television interview.

He added that they are also looking at allowing online campaigning.

“On the part of the Comelec, it is important to understand that, yes, we intend to open up online campaigning as a viable alternative to in-person campaigning. However, we are more concerned about establishing an even playing field so that everyone gets an opportunity to use online campaigning and online resources and overwhelmed by candidates with more capability than others,” Jimenez added.

During elections, the campaign period for national positions starts 90 days before the scheduled polls while local candidates are given 45 days to campaign.

Malacañang, meanwhile, said the holding of the traditional face-to-face campaigning is still possible, depending on the success of the government’s mass immunization drive.

In a virtual presser, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in-person campaigns could still be done, if the government reaches its goal to vaccinate “100 percent” of the adult population.

“We are aiming to vaccinate 100 percent of our adult population within the year of 2021. So of course, we cannot discount the possibility that we might consider face-to-face campaigning if we are able to reach our target,” Roque said.

He said it is “too early” to rule out the possible conduct of face-to-face campaign.

“We respect that the Comelec is a constitutional body tasked with holding and supervision of elections. I’m sure the issue will be discussed beyond Comelec and will also include the IATF,” he said. “Let’s wait what will happen to our vaccination campaign because we still have time.”

Roque issued the statement and acknowledged the electorate needing to know the candidates well through “all forms of campaigning”.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the IATF-EID would let Comelec decide on the holding of campaign activities, saying the commission is an independent constitutional body.

The Philippine government is expecting to secure a total of around 178 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine that will be administered to some 92 million individuals.

About 70 million Filipino adults are covered by the Duterte administration’s Covid-19 vaccination program that is expected to commence this month.*PNA

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