Comelec prepares to disqualify ‘epals’

Paterno Esmaquel II
Help us track and punish them, Comelec asks citizens

MANILA, Philippines – First it disqualified existing party-list groups. In another test case, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will soon disqualify “epals” from the 2013 polls.

The Comelec warns re-electionist officials who paint, carve, or plaster their names on public structures. Citizens take for granted these acts of “epals” or attention-grabbing politicians, but the poll body says it is not joking around.

Gusto namin may test case, para alam nilang seryoso kami,” said Comelec Commissioner Christian Lim when asked about possible disqualifications over the anti-“epal” rule. (We actually want a test case, so they would know we’re serious about it.)

Lim, head of the Comelec’s campaign finance unit, spoke to reporters on Monday, January 28, after the poll body’s roundtable discussion about online campaigns. (Watch more in the video below.)

Under Comelec Resolution No. 9615, the rule to determine liability is simple: If it’s your face or name that’s there, then you did it. Candidates have until February 11, a day before the campaign period, to remove prohibited signages.

Resolution No. 9615, which sets the campaign rules, prohibits posting ads outside common poster areas, in private properties without the owners’ consent, and in public places. Under Section 7, the public places include the following government properties where “epal” signs have become a common sight: 

  • schools, shrines, barangay halls, health centers, and public structures and buildings;

  • waiting sheds, sidewalks, street and lampposts, electric posts and wires, traffic signages and other signboards on public property, pedestrian overpasses and underpasses, flyovers and underpasses, bridges, main thoroughfares, and center islands of roads and highways; and

  • government-owned patrol cars, ambulances, and other motor vehicles

Comelec Resolution No. 9615 states: “All prohibited forms of election propaganda as described in Section 7 of these Rules shall be immediately removed, or caused to be removed, by said candidate or party before the start of the campaign period; otherwise, the said candidate or party shall be presumed to have committed the pertinent election offense during said campaign period for national candidates or for local candidates as the case may be.”

Tearing down signs

Lim added that once the campaign period begins on February 12, the Comelec wouldn’t think twice about tearing down “epal” signs. He said the Comelec has deputized the Department of Public Works and Highways to do this.

Lim said tearing down “epal” signs is “more on the extreme.” “Pero kung matigas ang ulo, babaklasin talaga namin.” (But if they’re really hard-headed, we will tear these down.)

Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr himself has asked citizens to help the poll body monitor compliance with the new campaign rules.

Vincent Lazatin, head of the watchdog Transparency and Accountability network, commended the Comelec for its drive against “epals.”

“From what I’m seeing from Chairman Brillantes and some of the other commissioners, I think there is a genuine sincerity to try to really crack down on a lot of the campaign violations that have been happening, year in and year out,” Lazatin said in an interview with Rappler. (Watch more in the video below.)

Lim explained the rules on campaigning have always been there, but only lacked enforcement. This time around, how bravely will the Comelec implement these rules amid a possible backlash from politicians?

Eliciting laughter, Lim said: “I-impeach n’yo na lang kami.” (Just impeach us.) –

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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