2022 Philippine Elections

‘Epal’ posters? Don’t blame Comelec, spokesman says

Dwight de Leon
‘Epal’ posters? Don’t blame Comelec, spokesman says

Commission on Elections Spokesman James Jimenez says banning premature campaigning is up to Congress, not the poll body.

File photo from Comelec

‘Ultimately, it’s Congress that has to make a solution,’ says Commission on Elections spokesman James Jimenez

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) appealed to Filipinos to redirect their complaints about premature campaigning to Congress, which has the powers to prohibit such practice, as campaign posters proliferate a year before the 2022 elections.

Palaging nagagalit ang mga tao, inutil daw ang Comelec, walang magawa (People are mad at Comelec, saying we can’t do anything),” said Comelec spokesman James Jimenez in a Radyo Comelec livestream on Saturday, April 3. “We are enforcers of election laws, we do not make election laws.”

“Ultimately, it’s Congress that has to make a solution,” he said.

Jimenez noted that only the legislative branch can supersede a 2009 Supreme Court (SC) ruling that decriminalized premature campaigning.

In 2009, the SC upheld Republic Act (RA) No. 9369 or the Poll Automation Law, under which a person can only be considered a candidate during the campaign period.

This decision voided Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code, which prohibits any person from engaging in election campaigns except during the campaign period.

Nakalagay sa batas na lahat ng puwedeng ipagbawal sa kandidato, puwede lang ipagbawal sa simula ng campaign period (The law states that you can only prohibit unlawful acts of candidates at the start of the campaign period). Think about that for a while and you’ll realize how absurd it actually is,” Jimenez said.

For the 2022 elections, the date of the filing of certificates of candidacy for all elective positions is in the first week of October 2021. The campaign period for candidates for president, vice president, senator, and party-list groups begins on February 8, 2022.

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Premature campaigning ‘morally unfair’

Jimenez made the statement in reaction to the proliferation of posters urging Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio to run for president in 2022. Many Filipinos have described such campaign materials as “epal,” a derogatory term for people seeking too much attention.

Jimenez said the mounting of such “Run, Sara, Run“ posters is “morally unfair,” but asserted it is technically legal amid the lack of a law that prohibits premature campaigning.

“It’s not punishable by law, it’s freedom of expression, but it is still morally unfair,” Jimenez said.

He noted that early campaigning by politicians or supporters in politicians’ behalf skews the playing field to favor those who have the financial resources.

Obviously, kung may pera kang gumawa ng ganyan, that’s what you’ll do, para pagdating ng campaign period, na-prime mo na ‘yung isip ng mga tao. ‘Yan ang technique diyan, ‘yan ‘yung strategy diyan,” Jimenez said. (If you have the money to do that, that’s what you’ll do, so that you have conditioned the mind of the public once the campaign period starts. That’s the technique and strategy there.)

Kawawa ‘yung magagaling pero walang pera, kasi hindi sila nakaka-break into that arena (It’s a pity for those who are skilled but have no money, because they cannot break into that arena),” he added.

Duterte-Carpio has insisted she has no plans to succeed her father in 2022, but some political analysts have been wary as to why the president’s daughter needs to be dissuaded in the first place.

Even Malacañang officials, namely Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, have, in the past, welcomed the idea of the president’s daughter joining the 2022 race. – Rappler.com

Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.