Anti-Corruption Commission, Comelec tell gov’t employees: Stay away from politics

Sofia Tomacruz

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Anti-Corruption Commission, Comelec tell gov’t employees: Stay away from politics
The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission and Commission on Elections urge the public to file complaints for any possible offenses

MANILA, Philippines – With the campaign period in full swing, the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) and Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday, February 14, reminded government officials to stay away from partisan political activities or face possible sanctions.

PACC Chairman Dante Jimenez, along with Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez, said government officials who were members of the civil service were not allowed to use public funds and resources to support candidates or political parties.

Recalling President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for an “honest and clean” election period, PACC Chairman Jimenez warned government officials the commission was taking the President’s word “seriously.”

Dito makikita talaga kung may laman, may ngipin ang ating administrasyon ngayon (This is where we will see if the administration has substance, has teeth…. Test case po ito sa kanya (This is a test case),” he said in a press conference. 

“Give us proof and we will give you suit,” he added.

Comelec Spokesperson Jimenez welcomed the partnership with the PACC, saying this would help in enforcing prohibitions under the Omnibus Election Code.

“It has been a perennial problem in terms of enforcement kasi siyempre may mga government officials na sumisimple na nakakalusot sa kanilang partisan political activities (because there are government officials who try to go around it to push through with their partisan political activities) ” Jimenez said.

He added, “[Government officials] not caught and not punished, PACC na po ang bahala diyan (The PACC will take care of that).”

What is prohibited: PACC’s Jimenez said government officials were not allowed to do the following, as laid out under Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code:

  • Vote buying
  • Vote selling
  • Conspiracy to bribe voters
  • Using public funds, equipment, facilities, and resources controlled by the government for an election campaign
  • Coercion of subordinates 
  • Undue influence or promising any gain in exchange for a vote or withholding a vote

Comelec’s Jimenez said government employees were allowed to express their opinion and who they would vote for but they were not allowed to impose these on other public servants.

Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police (PNP) were also prohibited from engaging in partisan activities.

Asked about the PNP’s event honoring Senate bet Bong Go on the eve of campaign period, Jimenez said that prior to the start of the campaign period last February 12, “rules do not apply to these potential candidates.”

Prohibition on partisan political activities imposed on civil servants, though, still do, Jimenez said. He likewise discourgaed future individuals who wished to do so for pushing through with any similar plans. 

Jimenez said any possible sanctions would depend on whether or not a complaint is filed against the PNP or Go. “It’s really a question of anyone complaining and action being taken on the complaint,” he said. 

Political appointees exempted: The PACC said, however, said that those holding political office, such as the President, are exempt from the restrictions.

“[The President’s] office is a political office and his cabinet members and those appointed as political appointess are exempt from the prohibition of partisan political activities,” PACC Executive Director Eduardo Bringas said. (READ: Duterte’s chosen ones: Who will benefit most from the President’s endorsement?)

“By their very nature, poltical offices require them to engage in a little bit of politics but if you’re in the civil service, you’re supposed to be insulated form politics,” Comelec Spokesperson Jimenez said.

Other individuals exempted are the Vice President, cabinet members, and elected public officials (except for barangay officials). The staff of such officials were also considered exempt.

Possible sanctions: Bringas said government employees who were proven to have violated the law may face administrative or criminal cases.

Under the Omnibus Election Code, those found guilty of the election offenses may also face imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than 6 years, without the possibility of probation.

Meanwhile, Civil Service Rules state that officials food guilty may also face suspension and possible disqualification from their posts.

Comelec Spokesperson Jimenez said the restrictions took effect at the start of the election period last January 13, 2019. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.