Indonesia

Caught campaigning? Jail awaits gov’t employees

Paterno Esmaquel II
Caught campaigning? Jail awaits gov’t employees
Possible penalties include dismissal from public service if a government employee is caught campaigning, even on Facebook

MANILA, Philippines – Do you work in the civil service, and do you campaign for your favorite candidate by posting on Facebook, wearing T-shirts or pins, and engaging in other partisan activities?

Watch out. 

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) warned government employees: punishment awaits those who break the rules of “political neutrality.”

The possible penalties? “Imprisonment of less than one year but not more than 6 years,” as well as dismissal from public service.

In a presentation on Tuesday, March 29, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said administrative and criminal cases await government employees who violate these rules. 

The penalties for administrative cases have been listed in the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service. 

“Engaging directly or indirectly in partisan political activities by members of the Civil Service is a less grave offense punishable by suspension of one month and one day to 6 months for the first offense, and dismissal from the service for the second offense” under CSC rules, as quoted by Bautista.

The penalties for criminal cases, on the other hand, can be found in the Omnibus Election Code.

The Comelec said: “Section 261 (i) of the Omnibus Election Code penalizes as election offenses the electioneering and partisan political activities committed by members of the civil service and the military. The penalties are imprisonment of less than one year but not more than 6 years (not be subject to probation), disqualification to hold public office, and deprivation of the right to vote.”

In the case of erring personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), they “may be disciplined before courts martial under the Articles of War,” the poll body added in its presentation. 

Rules apply to Facebook

CSC Chairperson Alicia dela Rosa Bala said these rules against political partisanship also cover social media sites such as Facebook.

Bala said the government is not banning its employees from liking or reposting entries from a candidate or political party’s social media site.

“But to campaign actively and to solicit votes and support, and even the wearing of caps or pins or vests mentioning the name of the candidate, these are included in the coverage of what they’re liable for, either administrative or criminal,” Bala said.

This circular said that “social media functions such as liking, commenting, sharing, reposting, or following a candidate’s or party’s account” is allowed. That is, unless it is “meant to solicit support for or against a candidate or party during the campaign period,” the CSC said in a statement.

The prohibition against political partisanship “covers all members of the civil service,” including employees of state colleges and universities. (READ: Gov’t employees barred from campaigning on Facebook)

This law, however, exempts the president and vice President, members of the Cabinet, elective officials except for barangay (village) officials, personal and confidential staff of the exempted officials, and members of the reserve corps of the AFP. – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.