Now, Comelec wants to police campaign colors

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 23 2013 05:00 PM | Updated as of Jan 24 2013 07:58 AM

MANILA, Philippines - As if monitoring broadcast and online political advertisements are not enough, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will also clamp down on the use of colors in clothes, logos and insignias during the official campaign period.

Yet, Comelec's highest officials seem to be at a loss on how to implement this resolution, which the commission promulgated en banc.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento admitted the rules are not clear, adding they can always perfect the rules as they go along.

"Hindi ba ang karansan natin pagkampaniya yung mga kandidato may kulay sa t-shirt, kulay to identify political parties and party-list organization? Ito'y pinasok ng Comelec dahil through colors, na-identify na orange si kandidatong ganito yan. Pag yan ginamit, lagi na-identify sino nagdadala niyan. Sabihin natin di man nagsasalita yan, nag-iikot iyan. Identified siya sa political party and candidate. Ico-consider ng Comelec for purposes of monitoring and regulation,” he said.

Sarmiento said the rules cover candidates, their supporters and endorsers.  He said they will only go after individuals who regularly and consistently wear a certain color as a subtle form of endorsement.

“Kung consistently ginagamit at campaign period at pumasok na campaign period, at consistently sa rallies, appearances, guestings, ibig sabihin may motibo na pulitikal kung bakit ginagamit,” he said.

The Comelec official said endorsers may be charged as an accessory or accomplice to an election offense.

He added journalists who are volunteer supporters of a candidate must resign from their media positions.

He noted that he expects the poll body’s campaign finance unit to help implement the resolution.

Sarmiento said they will rely on the public and accredited citizens' arms like the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections and OneVote to help them monitor compliance.

What about hand signals?

The poll official said they will hold a dialogue with parties and candidates on the use of colors.

Sarmiento said there should be no problem with the use of an on-camera talent of certain colors of clothes so long as he is fair in giving airtime to all candidates.

"Kung TV host balanse sa pagtreat at equally all candidates, walang pinapanigan, pero kung consistently isa lang ini-interview at tinatanong sa guestings, ibig sabihin yung kulay, may kulay na,” he said.

However, he admitted he cannot yet figure out how to regulate the use of logos and insignias associated with candidates. He added that the resolution is silent on the use of hand signals.

The commissioner said the poll body has to achieve a balance. "Baka we have so many bans, we have become a Taliban,” he said.

Asked about the regulation, Chairman Sixto Brillantes also expressed surprise and confusion at their own resolution.

"Ewan ko. Meron na ba sila? The resolution we’re preparing is more that would address senatorial. Baka sa local, may color motif. Sa senatorial, di pwede. 33 ang colors. Rainbow!” he said.

The Comelec chief said the order needs careful study since political candidates sometimes wear the campaign colors of their political party.

Asked if it's a violation of any rule or law, he said: “Wala! Wala naman violation eh. Kunyari di ka kumakampanya, walang rally pero lahat ng bahay lalagyan mo ng orange yellow di ba yun ang senyas? Bawal yun baka lagay ka ng lagay ng yellow maski saan.”

Brillantes said the Comelec has not registered “campaign colors” of political parties or candidates.

He said the poll body will also ask celebrities who consistently use one color in all pubic appearances if they are paid to wear such colors.

“Binabayaran ka ba? Hindi. Donation. Ire-report natin yun. Purpose ng resolution isn't prohibition, just regulation. Hindi bawal yan. Hindi naman namin ini-interpret color motif kung kumakampanya ka. Kaya nga ayoko gumawa ng conclusion. Gusto ko pag-aralan ano ibig sabhin niya. Ako palagi ako naka-polka dot,” he said.

Section 9 of Resolution 9615 reads: In cases where two or more candidates or parties whose names, initials, images, brands, logos, insignias, color motifs, symbols, or forms of graphical representations are displayed, exhibited, used, or mentioned together in the broadcast election propaganda or advertisements, the length of time during which they appear or are being mentioned or promoted will be counted against the airtime limits allotted for the said candidates or parties and the cost of the said advertisement will likewise be considered as their expenditures, regardless of whoever paid for the advertisements or to whom the said advertisements were donated.

(4) The term "political advertisement" or "election propaganda" refers to any matter broadcasted, published, printed, displayed or exhibited, in any medium, which contain the name, image, logo, brand, insignia, color motif, initials, and other symbol or graphic representation that is capable of being associated with a candidate or party, and is intended to draw the attention of the public or a segment thereof to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the election of the said candidate or candidates to a public office. In broadcast media, political advertisements may take the form of spots, appearances on TV shows and radio programs, live or taped announcements, teasers, and other forms of advertising messages or announcements used by commercial advertisers.

Section 25 mandates the removal of these before the start of the official campaign period or risk disqualification, loss of the right to vote, or a maximum of 6 years imprisonment.

"SECTION 25. Removal of Prohibited Propaganda Materials Before the Start o f the Campaign Period. - 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. The prohibited forms of propaganda contemplated in this Section include any names, images, logos, brands, insignias, color motifs, initials, and other forms of identifiable graphical representations placed by incumbent officials on any public structures or places as enumerated in Section 7 (g) of these Rules."