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Comelec’s Garcia opposes COVID-19 vaccination in polling places

GMA News Online logo GMA News Online 04/05/2022 GISELLE OMBAY,GMA News
screenshot from Tina Panganiban Perez video screenshot from Tina Panganiban Perez video

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner George Garcia on Wednesday said he is against the setting up of COVID-19 vaccination sites in polling precincts as it is not the right venue and it may raise confusion among voters for the 2022 elections.

During the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum, Garcia explained that while his office has not yet received any recommendation letter from the Department of Health (DOH) to put up vaccination centers for voters during the May 9 elections, he said he would not approve such because it is “not the proper time” to do so.

“Ako po personally, as a member of the Commission, mukhang hindi po yata tama, sa aking palagay. With all due respect sa DOH, siyempre po we have to focus sa elections muna. We have to allow our voters to vote first. ‘Wag na muna natin isabay sa pagboto,” he said.

(Personally, as a member of the Comelec, it doesn't seem right in my opinion. With all due respect to the DOH, we have to focus on the elections first. We have to allow our voters to vote first. Let’s not vaccinate while we are still voting.)

He also pointed out that vaccination sites in polling precincts may also give the voters the wrong impression that they need to get vaccinated first before they may be able to cast their votes.

“Baka sabihin ng mga botante na requirement pala ang pagbabakuna eh baka matakot ‘yung iba na pumunta lalo na ‘yung unvaccinated dahil sa kanilang paniniwala kung personal man o religious o whatever,” he added.

(Voters may say that vaccination is a requirement for them to vote and this may cause fear for others to not go to polling places, especially the unvaccinated because of their beliefs, whether personal, religious, or whatever.)

Infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Salvana, who is also a member of the DOH Technical Advisory Group, on Monday said it would be convenient for the voters if they would also be given the opportunity to get their COVID-19 vaccines or booster shots near the voting precincts so as to increase the vaccine coverage in the country.

Despite stressing that he is not against vaccination, Garcia argued that May 9 should only be for the elections and polling centers are fully-controlled by the Comelec, thus whatever will happen there will be within their jurisdiction.

Further asked if he will also suggest for the government to suspend the national COVID-19 vaccination on the May 9 elections to allow the public to vote, he said, “Yes. Siguro naman hindi malaking kawalan din kung isang araw na lang ‘yun ay ma-reserve na natin sa pagboto ng mga kababayan natin.”

(Yes. Maybe it would not be a big loss if we could reserve just one day for our countrymen to vote.)

Garcia previously said that it is not mandatory for registered voters to present a COVID-19 vaccination card and negative result of an RT-PCR or antigen test before voting. The only thing that they need to bring is their face masks, and even wearing of face shields is not required in polling precincts. — RSJ, GMA News

This article Comelec’s Garcia opposes COVID-19 vaccination in polling places was originally published in GMA News Online.

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