Re-electionist Senator Leila M. de Lima urged the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to conduct an intensive information drive on the COVID safety rules to be enforced on May 9, Election Day, to prevent disenfranchisement resulting from confusion and disinformation, and to ensure a high voter turnout.
De Lima, a former election lawyer, noted that the new rules on temperature checks, wearing of face masks and face shields, and no vaccination requirement, are not yet clear to the majority of the voting population.
De Lima said the COMELEC should start informing the public at least two weeks before election day the specific regulations in voting that were modified to protect the voters against COVID-19.
“[COMELEC] should make clear that COVID vaccination cards are not required to enter the polling place and in order to vote. COMELEC should ensure that all voters know that vaccination is not a requirement for voting. Neither should a voter be refused his right to vote just because his or her body temperature is above normal,” she said.
“I urge the COMELEC to adopt the policy that at no time should the failure to bring a face mask or face shield be a bar to exercising the right to vote, and that instead voters without face masks should be provided with such free of charge,” she added.
The lady Senator from Bicol further stressed that the COMELEC should be clear on its proposed guidelines on isolation polling booths it intends to set up on election day.
“Without COMELEC being prepared for all these eventualities, ill-intentioned parties might spread disinformation to disenfranchise voters who have not been vaccinated or are experiencing mild COVID symptoms,” she said.
“The COMELEC should now conduct an intensive information drive on TV, radio, and social media, considering that COVID safety rules and regulations to be implemented on election day are not yet clear even to the candidates and political parties, much less the ordinary voters, barely three weeks before election day,” she added.
De Lima also said that the COMELEC should activate its online Precinct Finder on time or at least a week before the elections to enable voters to save time on election day.
“I hope the COMELEC makes good on its promise to have the online Precinct Finder up and running within the week. The Precinct Finder had been a great help in the 2016 and 2019 Elections,” she said.
“With the online Precinct Finder, COMELEC will avoid the risk of superspreader incidents at the polling place. Overcrowding and unneccessary contact usually happen when voters flock to and gather around the posted precinct list of voters for long periods of time just to search for their precinct numbers,” she added.
Last April 21, the COMELEC said it was ready to hold the May 9 National and Local Elections with just 18 days to go, but its online Precinct Finder remains offline.
The Precinct Finder, which has quick-search and user-friendly interface features, will allow voters to get their voting precinct locations online ahead of the polls. (30)