The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) on Tuesday reminded the candidates to strictly follow physical campaign guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

This, after the COMELEC received several reports that some campaign sorties have not followed campaign protocols, particularly the wearing of face mask and physical distancing.

“It has been brought to our attention that several campaign sorties conducted since the campaign period started have not been compliant with the mandatory face mask and face shield policy, as well as the strict physical distancing requirements,” COMELEC spokesperson James Jimenez said in a statement.

“In case the candidates need reminding, they are responsible for the safety of their staff and supporters and that the guidelines on physical campaigning are strictly followed that is their lookout,” he added.

He said election campaign activities that involve physical or personal interaction, such as in-person campaigns, rallies, caucuses, meetings and conventions, motorcades and caravans, and meeting de avance are covered by Resolution No. 10732.

The Resolution states that all persons participating in such activities in any capacity are required to wear full coverage face shields, together with face masks, whether earloop masks, indigenous reusable masks, do-it-yourself masks, or other facial protective equipment. Additionally, the minimum public health standards must be observed at all times.

“Having said that, the Comelec reiterates that violations of the physical campaign. guidelines are being strictly monitored by the respective campaign committees in every locality, under the guidance of the National Comelec Campaign Committee (NCCC) headed by Commissioner Rey Bulay, and with the cooperation of the Department of Health (DOH),” Jimenez said.

He said violations of the guidelines are classified either as an election offense, or as a violation of the minimum public health standards (MPHS).

An election offense is punishable with imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years without probation, while a violation of MPHS will be penalized with a fine of not less than PHP20,000 but not more than PHP50,000 or imprisonment of not less than one month but not more than six months, or both such fine and imprisonment.

The 90-day campaign period for national candidates started on February 8.

Meanwhile, poll body’s Printing Committee for the 2022 National and Local Elections is set to conduct the disposal of spools and paper trimmings on February 16.

Jimenez said the disposal will take place at the National Printing Office (NPO), Quezon City at 8 a.m.

“The paper trimmings for disposal, this is the part of the ballot for automated election system (AES) that we cut in excess of the set ballot size. These are the spaces on the side of the ballot. The spools are the cylinders of the ballot paper,” he added.

The AES ballot to be used in the 2022 polls measures 8.5 inches by 26 inches for local voters. For overseas voters, the ballot is shorter at 8.5 inches by 21 inches.

“The disposal is being done in order to make space at the warehouse, which is already being filled up as we make speedy progress in the printing of ballots,” Jimenez said.

He added that due notice has been given to all political parties who may observe the activity, subject to the prevailing health and safety protocols issued by appropriate authorities. (PNA)