On Feb. 8, 2022, Tuesday, proclamation rallies held in different provinces of the archipelago echoed as starting guns to signal the dawn of the 2022 election race.
Although the aspirants had been constantly in the public’s eye voicing out their vision and platforms prior to this date, they only become “official candidates” on Feb. 8, 2022 – the official start of the campaign period for the 2022 elections. Under Republic Act No. 9369, amending Republic Act No. 8436, any person who files a certificate of candidacy shall only be considered a candidate at the start of the campaign period for which he or she filed his or her certificate of candidacy. This means that candidates can only be held liable for election offenses after the start of the campaign period. Moving forward, the presidential, vice presidential, senatorial, and party-list seat candidates must now be mindful that their campaign efforts are compliant with election laws, rules, and regulations.
Notably, what sets this race apart from the elections in earlier years is the presence of the COVID-19 virus. In the pre-pandemic world, the image of campaigning included a swarm of supporters crowding to meet their candidates. However, with social distancing as a crucial preventive measure in the spread of the virus, guidelines and restrictions on campaigning had to necessarily be imposed. For instance, candidates are no longer allowed to enter houses of voters even with their permission, nor have physical contact with the public. Crowding and the giving of food and drinks are also now prohibited.
In addition, the Comelec’s Education and Information Department (EID) Director, Elaiza Sabile-David, stated that every campaign activity now requires the approval of the National Comelec Campaign Committee, a newly-formed committee established to regulate and ensure compliance with the COVID-19 campaign restrictions. This means that organizers of in-person campaigns, rallies, and caravans must secure a permit from the committee.
To address some of the limitations in campaigning, the Comelec officially launched an online platform that would provide free livestreaming of e-rallies of all bonafide national candidates. This online platform is accessible at https://www.facebook.com/COMELECeRallyChannel. A schedule of e-rally timeslots for each elective position was set to ensure equality of airtime for all the candidates.
On Jan. 25, 2022, the Comelec revealed the final ballot face for the 2022 national election: 10 aspirants are listed for the presidential seat, nine for the vice presidency, a total of 64 candidates for the 12 senatorial seats, and overall 177 party-list groups vying for representation.
These candidates would have to win the votes of more than 65.7 million registered voters for the May 9, 2022 elections. These figures, according to the Comelec, still excluded the final tally of registered overseas voters estimated to reach 1.6 million.
With the imposition of the necessary restrictive campaign measures and the offset of this restriction by using the internet as a tool for reaching voters – one has to wonder if this would be sufficient to access that portion of the electorate without regular internet connectivity.
With three months to go before election day, an estimated 67.3 million registered voters, and 17 regions in the archipelagic Philippines – the race of entitlement to a government seat begins.
The proverbial saying that “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” may not be applicable in this race where time is of utmost importance given the limited movement of the candidates brought about by the pandemic.