Comelec asks netizens to report campaign offenses

MANILA, Philippines – A week before the start of the official campaign period, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) called on the public to join its online “shame campaign” by reporting political camps that will violate election propaganda rules.

“We want to invoke the citizenry. Gusto natin ang taumbayan ay lumahok at tumulong kunan nila ng litrato 'yung campaign paraphernalia na 'di karapat-dapat sa lugar kung saan man sila nakalagay,” Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista told reporters on Tuesday, February 2. 

(We want the people to join and help take photos of campaign paraphernalia that are posted in areas where they're not supposed to be posted.)

“As you know, napakalaganap na ngayon ng social media. Baka maging viral ang mga photo na ito. Baka makaapekto ito sa kanilang mga kampanya dahil makikita na 'di nila sinusunod ang batas at baka kahit papano hindi sila iboto,” Bautista added. 

(Social media is very prevalent nowadays. Photos posted might go viral and might affect their campaign. [People online] might see that they are not following the law. In effect, they may not get votes.) 

Bautista said netizens can post reports on the poll body’s social media accounts: 

Facebook 

Frequently Asked Questions on the 2016 Local Absentee Voting Posted by Commission on Elections on Sunday, December 13, 2015

Instagram 

Campaign periods start Feb 9, for national candidates, & Mar 25, for local #PiliPinas A photo posted by COMELEC (@comelectv) on Jan 31, 2016 at 12:09am PST 

Twitter 

#OplanBaklas MOA signing w/ @ChairAndyBau, MMDA Chair. Carlos & DPWH Sec. Singson 97#DaysBeforePiliPinas #PiliPinas pic.twitter.com/ObJUwPrc76 — COMELEC (@COMELEC) February 2, 2016 

‘Clean and green campaign’ 

Bautista signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chief Emerson Carlos and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson on Tuesday to ensure an eco-friendly campaigning for 2016.

The partnership aims to encourage the use of recyclable and environment-friendly campaign materials and prevent “wasteful and polluting campaigns” through littering and “irresponsible” disposal.  (READ: Gov't aims for 'garbage-free' 2016 elections

Under the agreement, DPWH and MMDA are authorized to take down paraphernalia that are posted on trees, plants, and private or public places outside the designated areas.

The public areas where posting of campaign materials is prohibited include: 

In local government units outside Metro Manila, the DPWH will ask help from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to control roads where seating officials, also seeking elective posts, are dominant.

“We are announcing [this] one week before the actual implementation. We are giving fair warning to our candidates,” Bautista said. 

‘Epal’ billboards 

DPWH also reminded candidates that they will remove “epal” posters or those signages of local projects that bear the names of incumbent officials. 

“We will continue to campaign against any politician who will use [a] project billboard,” Singson said during the MOA signing. 

Bautista stressed that, aside from “epal” tarpaulins, that greetings from politicians and and brand endorsements are also prohibited under the Fair Elections Act. 

“Tanggalin na muna nila. 'Wag na nilang antayin ang DPWH at MMDA ang magtanggal pa,” Bautista said. (Remove [epal tarpaulins before the campaign season]. Don’t wait for DPWH and MMDA to take them down.)

The poll chief also noted that they cannot keep private persons from posting their own endorsements. However, Comelec will just have to provide limitations on the size of these publicity materials. 

Bautista's statement didn't seem to consider the effects of a Supreme Court decision that gives "private persons" free hand to post election propaganda that doesn't follow the Comelec's size limits. (READ: Remember 'Team Patay'? Here's how it will affect campaigning now)

Penalties 

Candidates who violate these rules will face imprisonment for one to 6 years, not subject to probation. They will also be disqualified from seeking public office and be ineligible to vote. 

As soon as Comelec received reports from its partners – and even from the netizens – it will investigate whether a misplaced poster was authorized by a candidate or a political party. 

Bautista said they have yet to clarify the arrest procedure in the coming weeks, but said the first step is to remove posters from prohibited areas. 

Campaign for the national posts will kick off on Tuesday, February 9. Local candidates may start campaigning on March 25. Read Rappler’s story to know the complete list of prohibited acts during the campaign season. – Rappler.com

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.

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