Año warns bets, supporters vs holding political rallies

Published December 2, 2021, 12:29 PM

by Chito Chavez

Supporters of political parties and candidates vying for elective posts in the 2022 election are barred from holding rallies and will have to wait for the official campaign period before embarking on their sorties.

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) stressed that the official campaign period begins on February 8, 2022 for national posts and March 25, 2022 for local elective positions, including the position of members of the House of Representatives.

This reminder was issued by Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año on Thursday, Dec. 2 with the warning that the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) Omicron variant is a deadly threat to public health.

However, Año noted that special gatherings will only be allowed if permitted by the local government unit (LGU) concerned provided that all minimum public health standards (MPHS) are observed.

“Bawal pa po ang mga political rally. Hindi pa po campaign period (Political rallies are still prohibited. It is not yet the campaign period). We have been seeing candidates, both national and local, staging political rallies here and there which gather hundreds if not thousands of people. Hindi pa po tapos ang pandemya. Parating pa ang omicron variant (The pandemic is not yet finished. The omicron variant is looming in the horizon),’’ Año said.

Issuing the precaution further, Año stressed “we cannot put our guard down. The omicron variant has already reached many countries and it’s only a matter of time before it reaches us.’’

The DILG chief appealed to all candidates, political parties and their supporters to refrain from holding political rallies that attract “massive number of people as this may become super-spreader events especially when MPHS are compromised.’’

On the other hand, Año explained that special gatherings may be allowed subject to the approval of the LGUs provided that venue operational capacity and all health protocols are complied with and strictly observed.

He added “that only caravans and motorcades were given the green light because there is physical distancing and these are usually held for a limited time only.’’

Año also maintained that motorcades and caravans are held in open areas where the possibility of the transmission of COVID-19 is minute.

But, Año emphasized that the Philippine National Police (PNP) is closely monitoring the caravans and motorcades to ensure that no breach of the physical distancing rule occurs citing that crowd control in political rallies are difficult to manage.

“There is a time for everything and now is not the time to gather a huge number of people. Let’s wait for the campaign period. We are fortunate na bumababa ang kaso sa ating bansa but this is not the time to push our luck. COVID-19 is still here and we can’t be complacent,” he said.

“The trouble here is with the low number of COVID-19 cases, many have become complacent. Ipinapaalala natin sa mga kandidato at LGU, bawal pa ang mga political rallies (We remind the candidates and the LGU that political rallies are still not allowed),’’ Año said.

Año disclosed that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) alert level system guidelines invokes that “all types of gatherings of people are subject to operational capacities, compliance with MPHS and are, therefore, subject to the approval and monitoring by the LGU concerned.’’ (Chito A. Chavez)