Comelec to clamp down on campaign 'giveaways'

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 08 2013 03:11 PM | Updated as of Feb 10 2013 04:29 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is clamping down on giveaways of candidates to voters during the official campaign period.

“(We’re) also looking into giveaways. In previous elections, ang rule natin is if nominal naman value pwedeng hindi na habulin. Pinag-aaralan natin provision, maybe we will clarify specific items,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said.

At the same time, Comelec will give candidates only 3 days from receipt of warning to remove illegal campaign paraphernalia.

Jimenez said that while the poll body removed a provision in the campaign rules requiring candidates to remove campaign materials before the start of the election period, the poll body will instead start notifying candidates to remove illegal posters within 3 days when the campaign period begins.

The campaign period for national positions begins February 12.

Jimenez explains that the poll body will presume that posters with the names and faces of the candidate came from them.

“As far as Comelec is concerned, if they don’t take it down we will assume the material is there for them even if they didn’t themselves put it up they are liable,” he said.

Ads on PUVs

Jimenez said public utility vehicle (PUV) owners may also see their vehicles confiscated and themselves in jail if advertising wraps around their vehicles are not removed when the campaign period begins.

Jimenez noted that campaign rules ban political advertising on PUVs.

“If there are still buses with bus wraps of election candidates running around in 4 days we will go after them. On vehicles themselves, those might have to be taken into custody we have to remove the wrap.”

Jimenez said any objections to this rule would have to be elevated to the High Court.

”Nothing precludes them from bringing it up to the SC. They are a holder of franchise and a franchise is a grant by Congress that makes the vehicle, in ownership private, in character public. That’s taking advantage of a grant from government.”

Jimenez said there is wiggle room in the implementation of this rule, with the poll body deciding based on whether removing the wrap may damage the vehicle.

Jimenez invited the public to help them in enforcing this rule, adding that the poll body has the authority to motu propio prosecute these offenses.

He said pictures of offenses with the latest newspaper should be submitted to prove the timeliness of the offense.

He added that the Comelec will soon launch a reporting facility for the public to submit complaints.

Jimenez said the poll body will not be able to give running totals of campaign expenses of candidates.

“The key to fair elections is voter vigilance lalo na sa voters in social media.”

When candidates start their political rallies, they are only allowed to put up streamers that are 8 feet wide and 3 feet tall 5 days before the rally and these have to be taken down 24 hours after. Expenses must also be reported in 7 days.

Meantime, Jimenez said the poll body could not do anything against spam text messages that are used as viral political advertisements.

“Regulation is anti-spam. Pero normally when you think of spam sa SMS, those are sent from text blasting. Pero ‘yung mga nag-iikot ngayon na mga totoong number, I’m curious. SMS is the domain of NTC as far as were concerned.“