PPCRV: Extend voting hours until 10 p.m., remove ‘choke points’ to limit virus transmission

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(FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 25) — The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) said extended voting hours and additional support staff are needed to decongest precincts and prevent the May 9, 2022 polls from becoming a COVID-19 superspreader.

The poll watchdog outlined its proposed adjustments for voting day rules following a dry run hosted by the Commission on Elections at the San Juan Elementary School over the weekend.

“We are very concerned about choke points –– for example, a suggestion by the Comelec that they will have health declaration forms for voters to fill up prior to the election process. I think we should do away with that,” PPCRV president Myla Villanueva said in a webinar hosted by the Management Association of the Philippines on Monday.

Based on existing protocols, election staff would be checking the body temperature of voters at the entrance gates.

If feverish or with other COVID-19 symptoms, a voter will be taken to an isolation polling place to cast his or her ballot without putting other voters at risk.

Villanueva likewise suggested to further extend the voting period to accommodate more people. PPCRV proposed voting hours to start at 6 a.m. and last “anywhere between 8-10 p.m.”

The watchdog, which is supported by members of the Catholic Church, also suggested that voting precincts should cater to a maximum of 10 voters at a time.

Villanueva added that the number of poll watchers per classroom should also be limited to avoid COVID-19 contagion.

“There should also be ample waiting area space, we believe, to ensure that voters are not creating a superspreader event,” she said.

Comelec said it will finalize voting day rules by mid-November.

READ: Comelec eyeing more barangay courts, halls as voting centers in 2022

Commissioner Marlon Casquejo has rejected calls to hold the elections for multiple days, saying it is not allowed by law.

The poll body's Saturday simulation activity saw strict health protocols enforced in precincts.

However, it caused some delays in the process with physical distancing enforced at all times, according to Comelec spokesman James Jimenez.

Independence

In the same briefing, election law experts called for “independent” appointees to the Comelec as it will be in need of three new commissioners and a new chairman just three months away from the 2022 national and local elections.

“There should be a public vetting of the appointment of four new commissioners by February 2022, which can be a game changer on the conduct of elections,” said Atty. Christian Monsod, a constitutionalist and former Comelec chairman.

“What we need are independent appointments that could build stronger credibility,” Ateneo School of Government Dean Ronald Mendoza added.

“If those appointments actually fall short and are again coming from a particular city in the south, this is not going to be healthy for our democracy and can increase risks in terms of the credibility of the outcome of May 2022,” he stressed.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest comelec appointees –– Commissioners Casquejo, Socorro Inting, and Aimee Ferolino, all hail from his bailiwick in Davao City.

There is currently a vacant seat in the seven-member Comelec en banc.

Meanwhile, Commissioners Rowena Guanzon and Antonio Kho, Jr., as well as Chairman Sheriff Abas, are set to retire in February.