New campaign rules bar kissing, hugging, selfies
MANILA, Philippines — Political candidates better mind that physical contact. Hugging, shaking hands and even posing for selfies with the crowd—SOPs (standard operating procedure) on the campaign trail in prepandemic elections—may now get them disqualified.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has set strict rules to ensure compliance with health protocols amid the continuing threat of COVID-19 as the campaign period for the May 2022 general elections approaches.
Under the poll body’s Resolution No. 10732, violation of health and safety regulations set by the government will be deemed an election offense. The penalties are quite stiff: Imprisonment of up to six years and disqualification from holding public office.
The 21-page resolution, issued on Thursday, states that “During all election campaign activities, candidates and participants shall, at all times, observe MPHS (minimum public health standards).”
Prohibited acts include handshakes, kissing, hugging, “going arm-in-arm,” posing for photographs and distributing food, drinks and other items in rallies, caucuses, conventions and other political gatherings.
Public assemblies should observe physical distancing, the resolution also stressed.
Motorcades are also discouraged from making stops and candidates are barred from going inside the homes of voters, even if the latter have given their consent.
Political parties found violating the rules may be fined a minimum of P10,000.
The resolution takes effect during the campaign period, which begins Feb. 8 next year for national candidates and March 25 for local candidates. The end of the entire campaign period is on May 7.
In an online press briefing on Friday, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the poll body would rely on barangay government personnel to implement the guidelines and report election offenses.
He said these “restrictions … are the logical conclusion to the social distancing idea so that people will not get infected [with the novel coronavirus].”
“We don’t want campaigns to be a cause for any surge come election time,” he added.
But he also said candidates and parties objecting to these guidelines may file a petition with the Comelec.
“Right now, they are under the ambit of existing authorities, not just election authorities,” Jimenez said of the new rules.
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