The Commission on Elections is considering the establishment of isolation polling places for voters who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms on election day, Comelec Commissioner Aimee Torrefranca-Neri said last week in a joint press conference with officials from the Department of the Interior and Local Government and Philippine National Police.
The Comelec is also planning to create its own medical advisory board to provide additional support in revisiting COVID-19 guidelines, as well as partner with health and medical groups to set up medical desks that will respond to health-related issues of voters, especially those belonging to the vulnerable sector.
Those were some of the plans in the pipeline for COVID proofing the 2022 national and local elections, Neri said.
With around 67.5 million voters expected to troop to polling centers, Neri said election day has the potential to be a super spreader event so the Comelec must be fully prepared on the prevention of COVID-19 transmission during election day.
Government is already having difficulty pursuing politicians for violating COVID-19 minimum public health standards, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año has admitted. He said attendees of political activities are currently being sanctioned by the police instead of the politicians but they are also looking at investigating candidates who could be found culpable under the doctrine of command responsibility. However, if they go this route, the DILG has to be cautious as they do not want to be used as a tool by candidates to persecute political opponents.
The May 9 elections that will be conducted while the COVID-19 pandemic continues will be a significant challenge for the Comelec and all government agencies involved in ensuring the success of this democratic exercise. With the entire world bracing for another surge, we must realize that the false sense of security we are currently enjoying might not last until election day, and because there can be no cancellation or postponement for something as vital as elections, all the necessary measures and countermeasures have to be in place to ensure it pushes through for all Filipinos who want to exercise their right to choose the country’s next set of leaders.
Let us wish the Comelec the best of luck as they anticipate all potential scenarios so they can prepare for all the possible contingencies that could threaten to upend one of the most important days in any working democracy.*