Let the campaigns begin (again)! . . .
Yesterday marked the start of the formal campaign period for the 2022 Philippine presidential and vice-presidential elections, part of the 2022 general election scheduled for May 9, 2022. Although some campaigns began in early 2021, candidates are now considered official and must follow Commission on Elections (COMELEC) guidelines. With 10 candidates running for president, this is one of the elections with the highest number of presidential aspirants in history. While Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is considered a clear favouritein the polls, human rights lawyer and current Vice President Leni Robredo, former Idol star Francisco “Isko” Moreno Domagoso, world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, labour rights activist Leody de Guzman, and former police general Panfilo “Ping” Lacson remain possible contenders.
No hugs and kisses allowed . . .
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, new restrictions have been created by COMELEC to limit in-person campaign events. Traditional activities involving heightened physical contact such as hugging, kissing, taking selfies, and distributing food and drinks are prohibited. On the one hand, these guidelines are encouraging the adoption of online alternatives such as livestreaming rallies and social media engagement. On the other, it remains unclear whether candidates will follow COMELEC’s new health guidelines. With more than 65 million domestic voters headed for the polls in May, concerns over possible superspreader events will continue to plague the campaign period.
Selling oneself . . .
The updated rules on campaigning also impact candidate advertising. While ad spending for presidential candidates is limited to C$15.8 million during the official campaign period, multiple candidates already overspent that amount before the period began. In addition to traditional TV endorsements, the pandemic is also influencing the tools used for political lobbying. From pro-Marcos TikToks to negative messaging against the only female candidate, Leni Robredo, disinformation campaigns continue to be pervasive. As candidates without the resources to advertise themselves lose out on boosting their popularity, how the current media landscape will impact candidates during this period remains contentious.