No-contact campaign rules in ‘22 polls favor organized bets

Handshakes, hugs, kisses, going arm-in-arm, as well as any form of physical contact among the candidate, companions and the public are prohibited during the campaign period for the 2022 national and local elections.

Also not allowed under the so-called new normal campaign rules are taking selfies, or pictures that would require close proximity between the candidate, companions and the public, as well as entering the residence during house-to-house campaigning, even if the homeowners agreed.

But in-person campaign activities for the May 9, 2022, polls will be allowed only in areas classified under COVID-19 alert level 3 and below, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said in Resolution No. 10732 promulgated last Nov. 24, 2021.

The new rules will apply during the official campaign period that begins on Feb. 8 for national candidates and on March 25 for local candidates, it stated.

Comelec Campaign Committees in the national, regional, provincial and municipal levels have been created to classify category levels in in their respective jurisdictions; approve or disapprove applications for the conduct of election campaigns under the guidelines; monitor the conduct and prepare the reports about the election campaign; implement the other provisions of the guidelines and perform other functions determined by Comelec.

At the provincial level, the committee will be chaired by the Provincial Election Supervisor, with the DOH provincial officer, the PNP provincial director, the commanding officer of the Army unit in the island and the DILG provincial director.

At the municipalities, the committee will be headed by the election officer, with the local health officer, chief police, the Army’s highest ranking officer in the area, and the Municipal Local Government Operations Officer.

Barangay officials and guards, barangay health workers, and the police and military will be enlisted by the committees to monitor the conduct of the campaign.

The category levels, which correspond to an area’s COVID-19 Alert Level, will determine the conduct of in-person campaigning, the crowd capacity in campaign venues, the number of passengers in vehicles during campaign sorties, and the number of support staff joining the candidate during the in-person campaign.

In-person campaigning, where candidates and their supporters personally meet voters and conduct sorties in public places, will be allowed “without limit” in areas under alert level 1.

The entourage of candidates will be limited to five (5) in areas under alert level 2, and to three (3) under alert level 3.

With full- or over-capacity crowds prohibited under the rules covering caucuses, meetings, conventions, rallies and “miting de avance”, crowd capacity has been set at 70% of outdoor or indoor venues in areas under alert level 1, 50 percent of indoor or outdoor venues under alert level 2; 50 percent of the capacity of enclosed outdoor venues under alert level 3; and 30 percent of the capacity of enclosed outdoor venues under alert level 4.

For trucks, buses, mini-trucks and jeepneys joining campaign sorties, the number of passengers had been limited to 70% of vehicle capacity under alert level 1, 50% under alert levels 2 and 3, and 30% under alert level 4.

For SUVs, sedans and owner-type jeepneys, full capacity is allowed under alert levels 1 and 2, and up to two passengers per row and one on the driver’s row under alert levels 3 and 4.

For tricycle, full capacity is allowed under alert levels 1 and 2, and one sidecar passenger and one backride for alert levels 3 and 4.

Backrides will be allowed for motorcycles in areas under alert levels 1 and 2, and none for alert levels 3 and 4.

“Only candidates, campaign leaders, and supporters belonging to the same household are allowed to be in the same vehicle,” the Comelec clarified.

Aside from physical contact among candidates their companions and the public, and the distribution of food and drink and other goods during the entire campaign, the Comelec rules also prohibit during motorcades in all alert levels any stopovers, layovers and similar stoppages for the conduct of other election campaign activities.

For indoor rallies, caucuses, meetings and conventions, candidates will be required by the concerned campaign committee to present proof of reservation and the Department of Tourism’s accreditation of the venue.

For outdoor rallies, “miting de avance,” motorcades and caravans, they would have to present a permit from the concerned LGU and a report on planned health protocols against crowding.

Local chief executives can only deny a campaign permit only if a prior permit had been given for a rally to be held at the same time and location, with the denial appealable to the Comelec.

Under Batas Pambansa 880, the mayor or his/her representative shall act on the campaign permit application within two working days from the date of application. Otherwise, the permit shall be deemed granted, the Comelec stated.

The Commission stressed at during all these activities, candidates and participants shall, at all times, observe minimum public health standards.

Under Res. 10732’s general provisions, the candidates and their campaign support staff are considered as Authorized Persons Outside of Residence (APOR) “regardless of alert level system and vaccination status.”

It also prohibits those who are below 18 and above 65 years old, as well as those with underlying conditions including pregnant women, from joining any election campaign activities.

Those found in violation of the new normal campaign rules will be penalized under the Omnibus Election Code with imprisonment of one to six years, disqualification from public office and voting, and a fine for erring political parties of at least P10,000.

Violators of minimum public health protocols will be prosecuted under Section 9 of Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Concern Act.

Recently, the Comelec said that those who are running in the polls may hold political meetings, rallies or other similar activities online during the 2022 election campaign period.

Pursuant to Sec. 36 of Resolution No. 10730 or the Rules and Regulations Implementing Republic Act 9006 or the “Fair Elections Act”, it said that any political party or any candidate, individually or jointly with other aspirants, may hold peaceful online political meetings, rallies, or other similar activities during the campaign period.

Such online political meetings, rallies, and similar activities are not covered by the limitations on broadcast advertising,” said the resolution promulgated on Nov. 17, 2021.

“Live streaming on the candidates’ social media platforms shall be considered a form of e-rally,” it said.

The rules state that the e-rallies shall include a disclosure that identifies it as a political meeting or rally, confirms, compliance with minimum health protocols, and provides the relevant date, time, and location information.

Recordings of e-rallies shall be submitted to the Education and Information Department (EID) of the Comelec within 72 hours from the airing of the same, it said.

Candidates may receive in-platform gifts and game currency but shall not be allowed to give gifts to live stream audiences, nor to run promotions and campaigns that will award in-platform gifts or game currency to platform users and live stream audiences.

“More expensive” campaign seen

Under the new-normal campaign rules, candidates will be forced to spend more to reach out to voters and would most likely violate the rules, a veteran political strategist told the Tribune.

Aside from allocating funds for the usual paper and tarpaulin posters and leaflets, aspirants for local posts will have to hire social media-savvy people to run their campaigns on Facebook and other platforms.

The rules also favor politicians who have maintained a network of leaders in towns and barangays who are in close contact with voters in their wards but this also entails additional costs.

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