President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said physical distancing and other health protocols must be observed during political events or else Covid-19 would “come back with a vengeance.”

The president asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to issue an order to prevent superspreader events.

“You are the ones supervising the elections. As a matter of fact, you are the one running the show…Could you not just issue a[n order], i-maintain lang ‘yung social distance?” Duterte said.

“Babalik itong sakit na ito baka magrabe pa. We are not out of the woods…In the meantime, let us not presuppose that since there has been a vaccine available to all, do not ever, ever presume na wala na ‘yung danger of recontamination,” he added.

Survey-leading presidential bets, including Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, have drawn big crowds during their events and motorcades.

While the Comelec has declared violations of Covid-19 health and safety protocols as election offenses, the poll body cannot do anything yet as it is not yet the campaign period.

Comelec’s campaign period guidelines will take effect on Feb. 8, 2022 for national candidates and March 25, 2022 for local candidates.

Under Resolution No. 10730, the Comelec said it would be unlawful for any candidate, party, or any person to “act in a manner that violates the minimum health and safety protocols.”

Health and safety protocols listed by the Comelec under the resolution were:

1. wearing of face mask and face shield;
2. one-meter physical distancing;
3. frequent disinfection of hands; and
4. proper cough and sneezing etiquette

The Comelec also required the submission of affidavits of compliance with health protocols.

Failure to submit such affidavit would be considered non-cooperation, which the Comelec said was punishable under the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act. John Ezekiel J. Hirro