First general elections in pandemic: acid test for PHL

ALL eyes are now on polling precincts as the country holds its first ever National and Local Elections (NLE) during a pandemic.

Over 65.83 million voters are expected to go out on May 9, 2022 to cast their votes in 106,174 clustered precincts nationwide, prompting concerns it could become a super spreader event for Covid-19.

The Commission on Elections stressed the minimum health standards will be strictly enforced at polling precincts, which includes wearing of face masks, social distancing, and temperature checks.

Comelec Commissioner George M. Garcia, however, said vaccine cards and face shields will not be required for voters.

To prevent infections spreading in voting centers, he said voters with Covid-19-like symptoms including a temperature of  over 37.5 degree celsius will be brought to isolation polling precincts.

Despite the challenge posed by the pandemic, Comelec Chairman Saidamen B. Pangarungan vowed to “protect the sanctity of the vote by all means and by whatever circumstances.”

Election monitoring

Meanwhile, persons with disabilities and senior citizens will be allowed to vote in special polling precincts.

Election watchdog Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) will deploy 4,000 volunteers to help monitor the implementation of these additional polling venues.

“The focus of LENTE’s monitoring activities will be the implementation of election day procedures with a particular focus on health and safety protocols, and the voting experience of Persons with Disabilities, Older Persons, Indigenous Peoples, and Persons Deprived of Liberty,” Lente said.

It will also focus on the regular election-related issues such as vote buying.

“For any reports of election offenses or questions on election procedures, LENTE can be reached on the following hotlines: 0917 106 6265 (Globe), (02) 7502 1591 (Landline), 0920 266 0944 (Smart), and on our social media pages,” Lente said.

As of Sunday Comelec reported it received at least 10 vote-buying cases, but it noted there could be more similar cases filed in city and provincial prosecutors.

High turnout

Despite the pandemic, Garcia said they still expect a high voter turnout.

A total 18,100 positions will be at stake, including those for the country’s new president, vice president and 12 senators.

To encourage more people to cast their votes, President Duterte declared Monday as a special non-working holiday.

Those who will report for work will be paid an additional 30 percent of their basic wage on the first eight hours of work.

For work done more than eight hours, they shall be paid an additional 30 percent of their hourly rate on the said day and another 30 percent of their hourly rate if the overtime coincides with their rest day.

Image credits: ROY DOMINGO/AP