First word

NOW that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has spoken on 1) the prescribed election period for the May 9 national elections, and on 2) the specific campaign periods for all elective posts at stake in the balloting, we have arrived at the time of reckoning or decision point, when all candidates must make a final decision whether to press on with their candidacy or quit the race.

The Comelec calendar for the elections sets forth the truncated time frame for the elections,specifying what activities are allowed or are prohibited.

Candidates will no longer have the luxury of time to ruminate on their candidacies.

Some candidates for president or vice president who clearly do not have the organization, the resources and public support to make a serious run, should face the reality of their quixotic quest.

Others like Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, who are desperately inventing obstacles to derail the election, are plainly making a final attempt to hang on to their high positions in government, or are just angling for a deal with the next administration.

For politicians and public officials, the prospect of losing their government pay and privileges is too much to bear. Some of them have been in the public payroll most of their professional life, they cannot think of life elsewhere.

Most politicians and public officials will not be able to find work in the private sector, if their lives depended on it.

They are either incompetent for the highly competitive life in the private sector, or they are too old to be employable.

Think about it. If you are a corporate headhunter or the CEO of a top corporation, would you seriously consider hiring any of the politicians and bureaucrats who will be turned out of office come June 30 this year? Would you pay them the same extravagant paycheck they enjoyed at the public's expense?

No way, unless you or your firm owe them the favor of a plum contract from the government.

150-day election period

Through Resolution 10695, the Commission on Elections announced that the 150-day campaign period for the May 9, 2022 national elections would officially start on Sunday, January 9, and would conclude on Wednesday, June 8, by which time most of the winners in the elections would have been known or confirmed. Except for those contests that will be placed under protest by losing candidates, and will predictably drag on ad nauseam.

The 150-day election period prescribes the calendar of activities and period of prohibited acts leading to the conduct of the May 9, 2022 national and local elections.

Resolution 10695 also prescribed the specific campaign periods for the election of public officials from the president and vice president, to the members of Congress (Senate and House of Representatives), and top executives in local government units in the entire archipelago.

Resolution 10695 sets the campaign period for candidates for president, vice president and party-list groups from February 8 to May 7, 2022.

For candidates for the House of Representatives and for regional, provincial, city and municipal posts, their campaign can officially begin only on March 25, and also ends on May 7, 2022.

Campaigning, however, is prohibited during Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, on April 14 and 15, 2022, respectively.

For a period of one month, from April 10 to May 9, 2022, overseas voters may cast their votes in Philippine embassies, consulates and other posts pursuant to the overseas absentee voting system. Campaigning abroad, however, is prohibited during this period.

Local absentee voters will have three days to vote on April 27, 28 and 29, 2022. The last day to file an application to be a local absentee voter is on March 7, 2022.

The gun ban will be in effect for the entirety of the election period; this means that the bearing, carrying or transporting of firearms or other deadly weapons, unless authorized in writing by the Comelec, is prohibited.

The following acts are also prohibited: use of security or bodyguards by candidates unless authorized in writing by the Comelec; organization or maintenance of reaction forces, strike forces or other similar forces; alteration of territory of a precinct or establishment of a new precinct; transfer or movement of officers and employees in the civil service; and suspension of elective local officials.

A liquor ban will be in effect beginning May 8 until May 9, 2022, which means the selling, furnishing, offering, buying, serving or taking of intoxicating liquor is prohibited.

Campaigning is prohibited on the eve of election day until election day itself, in addition to the following prohibited acts: giving or accepting free transportation, food or drinks or things of value; soliciting votes or undertaking any propaganda for or against a candidate or any political party in the polling place or within 30 meters thereof; opening of booths or stalls for the sale of merchandise or refreshments within a 30-meter radius from the polling place; and holding of fairs, cockfights, boxing, horse races or any other similar sports.

At stake in the 2022 elections are 18,100 positions: one each for president and vice president; senators, 12; party-list groups, 63; members of the House of Representatives, 253; governor, 81; vice governor, 81; Sangguniang Panlalawigan, 782; mayor, 1,634; vice mayor, 1,634; and Sangguniang Panglungsod/Bayan, 13,558.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic situation, the Comelec has also set the rules on the mode of physical campaigning. It will be different in every area of the country, depending on the classification of alert level set by the Comelec.

These rules will be applicable at the start of the campaign period on February 8.

"We are aware that we have already alert levels 1, 2 and 3 as set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. We will be mirroring these in our own category levels for the purpose of deciding the restriction on in-person campaigning," Comelec spokesman James Jimenez told the media.

Jimenez said a Comelec campaign committee (CCC) will be created at the municipal, regional and national levels, which will be tasked to determine the category level of a particular area, give permits to rallies, to interface with barangay and health officials, write reports recounting how the campaigns transpire, and such other tasks assigned to it by the commission en banc.

Also part of the CCC's duties is the approval or disapproval of applications for the conduct of election campaigns or a form of permit process. The CCCs will also prepare reports regarding the conduct of election campaigns and such other functions that may be determined by the commission.

These Comelec rules and guidelines would be more impressive if the commission were more forthright in resolving quickly outstanding problems concerning the final list of candidates (so the official ballots can be printed) and the nuisance disqualification cases against the clear frontrunner in the presidential race.

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