The La Salle Institute of Governance (LSIG) welcomed 2021 by launching a virtual knowledge workshop series that aims to strengthen citizen participation in the 2022 elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 61 online participants, whom are members of the academe and research community, joined the first knowledge workshop entitled “The 2022 Elections and the Pandemic: Emerging Policy Research Issues and Challenges” last January 15, 2021 through Zoom.
Atty. James Jimenez, Spokesperson and Director of the Education and Information Department of Commission on Elections (COMELEC) served as the primary resource person of the workshop. In his presentation, it was highlighted that COMELEC had to rethink and redesign most of the electoral processes—emphasizing on integrating the minimum safety protocols—to navigate the challenges posed by the pandemic.
He added that one of COMELEC’s main concern is voter registration. As of early January 2021, there are only a little over 1M applications, which is way behind the target of 5M by the end of September 2021. One of the responses of the election institution was the launching of iRehistro (https://irehistro.comelec.gov.ph/), an online platform where registrants can digitally fill-up the forms before going to COMELEC offices. This is expected to shorten the time spent during registration, which may result to accommodation of more registrants and further reduction of virus transmission in registration sites. He also added that COMELEC is exploring legislative solutions for the full digital processing of voter registration.
After Dir. Jimenez’ presentation, the participants discussed the possible policy research topics or issues to ensure safety and participation of Filipino citizens in the upcoming elections. In particular, the participants proposed the following topics: (1) ensuring the safe and efficient movement of people on election day, (2) utilizing all forms of media considering their differences in reach and accessibility, (3) translating youth engagement in social media to actual participation, (4) safeguarding the rights of the vulnerable and marginalized sectors, (5) engaging HEIs and other stakeholders in information dissemination and voter education, (6) and addressing misinformation and disinformation.
Dr. Cleo Anne Calimbahin, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and the in-house election administration expert of the De La Salle University, provided the synthesis and integration of the issues and ideas presented in the workshop. She re-emphasized the importance of the safety fundamentals and proper communication between the public and government agencies. She added that communication regarding changes in pandemic-related protocols and systemic changes in the electoral process is extremely important, as misinformation or disinformation can lead to safety concerns and legitimacy issues surrounding electoral outcomes. Finally, Dr. Calimbahin also identified best practices observed in successful elections in other countries, namely: (1) extensive information campaigns and voter education programs in South Korea, Serbia, and Malawi; and (2) extended voting hours in Singapore.
Towards the end of the activity, the participants made a pledge of commitment to support the conduct of free, transparent, and fair elections by generating usable policy research that election stakeholders may use.
The first online workshop was co-organized in partnership with the Ateneo School of Government, through the Ateneo Policy Center, and the Philippine Society for Public Administration.