Comelec reminds new voter registrants to observe protocols vs COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   August 31, 2020   •   327

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday reminded the public to strictly follow health and safety protocols against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during voter registration which is set to resume on Tuesday, September 1.

In an advisory, Comelec said application forms can be filed from Tuesdays to Saturdays, including holidays, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Office of the Election Officer (OEO).

Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said there will be no satellite voter registration.

He also encouraged the public to download the application form from www.comelec.gov.ph and manually fill it out before going to the Comelec to register as a voter. They are also advised to bring their own pens.

He, however, said that registrants should only affix their signature at the form before the election officer at the Comelec office.

On the day of registration at the Comelec office, as a matter of procedure, registrants must observe the following:

  • Wear face mask and face shield;
  • Sanitize their hands and pass through the foot bath;
  • Accomplish the Health Declaration Form with their own pens;
  • Sign the application form using their own pens;
  • Sanitize their hands before and after using the signature pad and fingerprint scanner;
  • Take off their mask and shield only for photograph-taking during the capturing of biometrics data; and
  • Leave the COMELEC premises at once after the transaction.

The poll body also reiterated that a ‘no face mask and face shield, no entry’ policy will be implemented.

The number of registrants or transactions to be processed daily will also be limited, and physical distancing shall be observed.

Registrants will also be required to undergo body temperature check before entry, and to sanitize their hands and footwear.

“Daily disinfection of all OEOs will be undertaken to ensure safety at all times,” Jimenez said.

The nationwide voter registration for the May 2022 elections started on January 20, 2020 and will last until September 30, 2021.

Comelec to revert weekday schedule for voter registration on Nov. 9

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 22, 2020

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced on Thursday (October 22) that it will revert to weekday schedule for voter registration beginning November 9.

When Comelec resumed voter registration last September 1, it was scheduled to be conducted from Tuesdays to Saturdays.

Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said reverting to the weekday schedule will provide the agency time to disinfect offices on Saturdays.

“The Commission on Elections deems it necessary to revert to the weekday schedule to make way for Saturday disinfection days in all Offices of the Election Officer nationwide,” he said.

However, the Comelec official clarified that voter registration in areas under localized Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) will remain suspended.

Comelec also reminded the public that minimum health safety protocols will also be implemented during the registration to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Wearing of face mask and face shield is mandatory, the number of people to be allowed inside the COMELEC office will be limited to ensure compliance with physical distancing requirements, and applicants are encouraged to bring their own pens,” Jimenez said. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

Ex-Comelec chairman Jose Melo passes away

Robie de Guzman   •   October 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Former Commission on Elections (COMELEC) chairman Jose Melo has passed away, the poll body’s spokesperson announced.

In a message posted on Twitter, Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said Melo died on Sunday night. He was 88 years old.

“Sad news tonight. Just received word that Chairman Jose A.R. Melo, former SC Justice, and the COMELEC Chairman who oversaw the country’s transition to full automation from 2008 to 2010, has passed away. He was 88 years old,” Jimenez said.

He, however, did not disclose the cause of Melo’s death .

Prior to leading the poll body, Melo served as Supreme Court Associate Justice for nearly 10 years.

COMELEC has the power to postpone elections under certain circumstances —election law expert

Marje Pelayo   •   September 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Under specific circumstances, the Commission of Elections (COMELEC) has the authority or power to delay or postpone the conduct of an election.

This was clarified by election law expert Atty. George Erwin Garcia amid issues on a possible postponement of the 2022 national elections should the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic persist.

“COMELEC even has the power to postpone the elections or declare failure based on the Omnibus Election Code,” he added citing provisions of the law.

Section 5 of the Omnibus Election Code  states: When for any serious cause such as violence, terrorism, loss or destruction of election paraphernalia or records, force majeure, and other analogous causes of such a nature that the holding of a free, orderly and honest election should become impossible in any political subdivision, the Commission, motu proprio or upon a verified petition by any interested party, and after due notice and hearing, whereby all interested parties are afforded equal opportunity to be heard, shall postpone the election therein to a date which should be reasonably close to the date of the election not held, suspended or which resulted in a failure to elect but not later than thirty days after the cessation of the cause for such postponement or suspension of the election or failure to elect.

News of a possible postponement of the 2022 election came after Pampanga Representative Mikey Arroyo asked the poll body if it would consider such a move given that the country is currently facing a health crisis.

“No matter how prepared we are, it will cause a serious dent on our health situation. Would you consider it?,” he asked representatives from COMELEC during Congress’ hearing on the agency’s proposed budget on Thursday (September 24).

“Has the thought that you’ll propose to postpone elections, has that ever triggered in your minds?” the lawmaker further asked.

In response, COMELEC Commissioner Sheriff Abas said the postponement of election is beyond the agency’s responsibility.

“I think  wala sa call namin sa COMELEC iyan (I think that matter is not COMELEC’s call). It’s the call of both the chambers of the House and the president,” Abas said. 

Commenting on the issue, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin claimed that to cancel the election is an act of treason while former COMELEC commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal Sr.  said there is no reason to postpone the elections because other countries have been able to conduct it despite the challenges in the middle of the pandemic.

To clarify the matter, Atty. Garcia explained that the elections can be carried out before or after the second week of May as mandated by the Constitution as long as there is a law passed by the Congress.

“Pwede iyang ilipat sa ibang araw man lang o ibang linggo, pwede ngang ibang buwan ilipat (It can be postponed to a later date or week or even month). Bakit (Why)? Kasi ang nakalagay (because it says) ‘as may be provided by law,'” Garcia said.

“But it needs a constitutional amendment if the elections will be done beyond the elected officials’ term,” he added.

Garcia explained that by conducting an election outside or beyond the deadline or the term of office is therefore extending the term of office of the incumbent.

Such a case is prohibited or is not allowed by law, he said, because of what the law calls as hold-over capacity and fixed term of elected officials.

For now, Garcia said, what is important is for the Comelec to prepare for the elections and this includes voter registration. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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