ASPIRING candidates for the May 2022 national and local elections must ensure that their supporters and companions adhere to Covid-19 health protocols during the filing of Certificate of Candidacy (COC), which will start on Friday (October 1).

Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas stressed the responsibility of election hopefuls, saying the poll body will implement necessary measures to lessen the number of people inside and around the COC filing venues.

The poll chief explained they would no longer allow the traditional “fiesta-like” mood to persist during the COC filing period from October 1 to 8, 2021 amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We already coordinated that with our partner agencies like the MMDA (Metropolitan Manila Development Authority) and the PNP (Philippine National Police) to ensure that people will not gather outside [the COC filing venues],” Abas said during a television interview last Thursday.

Companion restriction

Traditionally, relatives and numerous supporters accompany candidates during the filing of COCs.

Under its Resolution  1071, Comelec limited the number of companions for those running for national positions—President, Vice-President, and Senator—to just three persons.

In the case of party-list groups, their Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance (CONA) may be filed by the chairperson, president, secretary general or authorized representatives, who may be accompanied by one person.

Other elective offices or their authorized representative would be allowed to be accompanied by a maximum of two persons.

The filing of COCs for national positions will be held at the Sofitel Garden Tent in Pasay City, while those for local positions will be held at the local Comelec offices in cities and municipalities.

Possible exemption?

The Presidential Security Group (PSG) has already announced it will insist on being exempted from the restriction once President Duterte files his COC to run as vice president in the 2022 polls under the Partido Demorkatiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).

PSG said it is mandated to always ensure the security of the President, which it said it cannot delegate to Comelec.

Abas declined to comment on the matter when asked about Comelec’s response on PSG’s pronouncement.

“I do not want to preempt what can happen [on that issue],” Abas said.

To note, Comelec also did not impose its companion restriction on Duterte, when he accompanied Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go as the lawmaker filed his COC in 2018.

At that time, several members of the PSG as well as Cabinet secretaries joined Duterte.

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