The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is studying some changes to hold elections in 2022 amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
According to Comelec Chairman Atty. Sheriff Abas, the commission has formed a special committee headed by commissioner Antonio Kho to coordinate with the country’s pandemic task force and health experts.
They are also formulating additional policies for the safety of voters, watchers, and the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) on polling day and counting.
“During halalan, kumpol-kumpol po ang mga tao sa mga eskuwelahan so ‘yun ‘yung masyadong malaking hurdle natin, but labas diyan pinag-aaralan pa namin paano natin ma-maximize na hindi magkakahawahan just in case tutuloy-tuloy nga itong pandemic,” said Abas.
The Comelec will also add clustered precincts and vote-counting machines, to ease the voting centers and to avoid queues and congestion of voters.
So far, there is only 1 machine for 1,000 voters, according to the commission.
“Ang initial plan namin is at least 5 voters at one given time ‘yung makakaboto. That is why kailangan namin dagdagan yung mga VCMs (Vote Counting Machines), ‘yung mga makina na gagamitin natin. Dadagdag kami up to 10,000 machines,” said Abas.
Comelec proposes health protocols for 2022 elections
They also plan to designate separate voting precincts for the elderly, pregnant women, and people with disabilities, and other vulnerable sectors.
It is also planned to extend the polls until 8 pm or later. The Comelec will also appoint COVID-19 marshals for strict enforcement of minimum health standards in precincts and limiting poll watchers.
The Comelec is also studying how to hold the usual presidential debates, according to spokesman James Jimenez.
“Kailangan siyempre pag-ingatan ‘yung health, safety, hindi lang ng audience kung ‘di ng mga kandidato mismo so you can expect that a lot of the work that we do will be relying on this – teleconferencing technology,” said Jimenez.
The Palawan plebiscite will serve as a dry run for the Comelec election COVID-19 protocols in March to find out what policies will work and what needs to be changed.