THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) is readying health and safety protocols to make sure that next year’s electoral exercise will push through even in the midst of another Covid-19 surge.
The commission “will do its best to conduct the elections despite any possible adversities such as a Covid-19 surge in the time of the elections,” Comelec Director Teopisto Elnas Jr. said on Monday during a forum organized by the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections.
Elnas said the poll body is in the process of drafting a contingency plan — from deployment up to the final testing and sealing of vote counting machines (VCMs) and validation of ballots, and the transmission of results — to Covid-proof the election process.
He said the commission will coordinate closely with the Inter-Agency Task Force and the Department of Health if a surge breaks out during the election period.
As part of the anti-Covid measures, only 10 to 15 persons will be allowed inside a polling place at any given time.
Voters’ temperature will be checked upon entry and they will be required to wear face masks.
Gatherings and loitering in the polling places will not be allowed.
The electoral board can seek the help of the police and the military in case people do not follow the health and safety protocols in polling places, added Elnas.
Voting hours will be from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. to compensate for the limited number of people allowed in the polling centers.
The Comelec also welcomed volunteers who will guard the VCMs to ensure that no tampering will take place after the machines are tested, sealed and validated.
Citizens groups, political parties and candidates can guard the VCMs while they are stored in the provincial or regional hubs. They can also escort the VCMs that will be deposited at the voting center, Elnas said.
Citizens and stakeholders can monitor the printing of election returns and their transmission, until the delivery of hard copies of election returns in different city and municipal boards.
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will also conduct Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing to “further assess the security of election data and information,” according to DICT Undersecretary for Digital Philippines Emmanuel Rey Caintic.