COC filing starts: Candidates can’t bring along usual circus
Enforcing COVID-19 protocols would be the overriding concern of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) when aspirants for the May 9, 2022, elections file their certificates of candidacy (COCs) starting Friday up to Oct. 8.
Those seeking national, provincial, city and municipal elective posts have to personally go to the designated Comelec venue to submit their candidacy papers. Since the activity usually draws crowds of political supporters, the poll body has decided to take precautionary measures against possible COVID-19 transmission.
Aspirants filing their COCs are limited to two companions each inside the venue. Only aspirants for president and vice president can have three companions.
Comelec Chair Sheriff Abas could not say, however, whether an exception would be made for President Duterte and other incumbent officials who may insist on bringing a bigger entourage.
On Wednesday, Col. Randolph Cabangbang, chief of the Presidential Security Group, said that regardless of the Comelec protocol, Mr. Duterte would have his close-in bodyguards with him should he push through with his plan to file his candidacy for vice president.
“I don’t want to preempt what can possibly happen,” Abas said on Thursday. “I have instructed our personnel to advise all potential (candidates) who will file, especially the political parties, to advise them in advance on our policy on the filing of COC.”
While in the past the COC filings were done at Comelec offices, election officers this year were told to look for bigger venues to avoid crowding.
For the national positions—president, vice president, senator and party list representative—the Comelec set up the filing venue at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila, a hotel in Pasay City.
Hundreds of policemen—including “social distancing patrollers”—are set to be deployed at the hotel and its vicinity during the filing period. The areas surrounding Sofitel will also be declared no-fly and no-sail zones.
Before they can enter the hotel’s Harbor Garden Tent, the aspirants and their companions must present results of a rapid antigen test or a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test showing them negative for COVID-19.
Everyone else at the venue—the Comelec staff, security personnel and a limited number of media workers—must also present a negative COVID-19 test result each day.
All Comelec personnel at the Sofitel venue have already been vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccination is not required of the candidates.
A list of aspirants who have filed their COCs will be prepared after the filing period, but the Comelec will allow a substitute until Nov. 15 for a candidate who has died, withdrawn his candidacy or has been disqualified.
The official campaign period starts in March 2022 for national candidates and in April for local candidates.
The Comelec has yet to finalize its guidelines on what forms of campaigning will be allowed during the pandemic.
The National Capital Region Police Office is also suspending permits to carry firearms outside of residence during the COC filing period. Only members of the police, the military and other law enforcement agencies on official duty and in uniform are allowed to carry firearms. —With a report from Dexter Cabalza
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