Despite the lifting of most COVID-19 restrictions in the recent months, the fluctuating number of COVID-19 cases shows that there is still imminent danger to public health and that strict health and safety protocols will still have to be implemented to COVID-proof the May 2022 Philippine elections.
The Ateneo School of Government conducted a study estimating the financial and manpower resources needed to COVID-Proof the elections. This was done by examining the experiences of other countries, which held their elections during the pandemic, as well as the Palawan plebiscite held in March 2021. The study estimated that the Philippines will need to allocate additional funds amounting to about PHP 17.5 billion to “COVID-proof” the May 2022 elections. It also outlined the main parameters to ensure a safe, free, and fair elections.
As we near the elections, it is crucial to understand COMELEC’s plans in safeguarding the health and safety of voters as they exercise their right to participate in this historic election. What should voters expect on election the day itself? How prepared is COMELEC in case alert levels and movement restrictions become stringent? Will voters experiencing COVID symptoms be allowed to vote? To answer these questions, PARTICIPATE organized a roundtable discussion with COMELEC officials, medical practitioners, and elections stakeholders to discuss plans on how to COVID-proof the elections and how stakeholders can collaborate to ensure the success of these plans.
As part of PARTICIPATE's objectives to 1) increase the availability and accessibility of information and 2) support constituency building for electoral reforms, we took the lead in holding an evidence-based discussion, while the coalition helped out in the dissemination of relevant information to a wider audience. Through roundtable discussion, PARTICIPATE aimed to further emphasize the importance of COVID-proofing the 2022 elections, to prepare the public for possible scenarios, and to provide a preview on what the people can expect in a “new normal” voting day .
The discussion was a success with at least 1,197 views on the Participate PH page and 14,341 accummulated views from seven partner coalitions that cross-posted the live streamed video on Facebook. These include the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines - The National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-NASSA), Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), Rappler, Now You Know PH, In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND), and Bantay Halalan sa Karapatan 2022.
The target audience of this Roundtable Discussion included coalition members and the general voting population. The news media was also invited to help disseminate valuable information gathered from the roundtable discussion. Resource speakers included experts from both the COMELEC and DOH. From the health sector, Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire of the DOH and Dr. Evalyn Roxas of the Philippine General Hospital participated in the discussion.
The main topics discussed included the following:
● COMELEC Preparations for the Upcoming 2022 National and Local Elections
● Covid-Proofing Strategies Employed
● Status and Prospects of the Covid-Situation in the Country Pre- and Post- Elections
● Assessment of COMELEC Policies relative to the Preparations
● Possible Scenarios Pre- and Post-Elections
● Measures to Address the Pandemic on a Personal and Community Level