Palace to voters: Scrutinize 2016 bets during campaign season

MANILA, Philippines – Two days before the campaign season for the 2016 polls kicks off, Malacañang appealed to voters to closely monitor debates and media appearances of candidates and scrutinize their campaign promises and platforms. 

In an interview on state-run radio dzRB on Saturday, February 6, Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III, head of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, was asked if he had a message for the politicians expected to ramp up their activities on the official start of the campaign season on Tuesday, February 9.

In response, Quezon said politicians should give importance to voters, who will choose their bets for various local and national positions based on what transpires during the campaign period. (READ: Calendar of activities, list of bans for 2016 elections)

"Ang botante ang mamimili dahil pagdating sa panahon ng kampanya ‘yan ang panahon ng pagsusuri, pag-aaral, pagdedebate at pagtatalakay ng mga isyu na hinaharap ng ating bayan at ng ating lipunan," Quezon said.

(The voters will choose, because the campaign season is the period for them to scrutinize, study, debate, and discuss the issues faced by our country.)

He added, "Siguro ang masasabi natin ay dapat tangkilikin natin ang lahat ng mga debate at ang mga programa sa radyo, telebisyon, basahin ang mga peryodiko upang malaman natin ang mga plataporma, paninindigan at katauhan ng ating mga kandidato."

(Voters should watch the debates, the radio and television programs, and read the newspapers to know the candidates' platforms and stand on issues and what kind of people they are.)  

Partisan activities?

During the interview, Quezon was also asked about the opposition United Nationalist Alliance's (UNA) call for deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte to resign from her post if she wants to campaign for the administration's 2016 bets.

UNA spokesperson Mon Ilagan earlier criticized Valte for her online posts hitting the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) rule that bars government officials from engaging in partisan political activities.

Valte had said the rule restricts freedom of speech and is tantamount to "unjustified and legally infirm" censorship.

Ilagan said Valte and other government officials "actively promoting Liberal Party candidates" should resign.

Valte, who had not been doing briefings for Malacañang in recent weeks, had taken a leave of absence without pay to support "the candidate she believes in," according to Quezon.

"It’s the proper thing to do. It’s a temporary leaving for a temporary commitment for a temporary period and should not imperil our overall service and commitment to the administration," Quezon said.

In response to Ilagan's statement, Quezon pointed out that the main issue behind Valte's online posts was the restriction on freedom of speech.

He said that based on the Administrative Code, past Supreme Court decisions, and the Omnibus Election Code, only civil service employees are covered by the ban on declaring their opinions or campaigning for politicians during the elections.

Comelec chairman Andres Bautista also clarified that political appointees are exempted from the ban.

"The only thing that political appointees cannot do is they cannot solicit contributions for a campaign, which is of course a very fair and proper limitation on our actions," Quezon said.

"So, of course, what Mr Ilagan is trying to do is your standard political gambit of trying to confuse the issue. But I think it’s very clear where Ms Valte was coming from, and the chairman of the Comelec himself has clarified that the distinction in the law is there," he added. – Rappler.com

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