MANILA—Election watchdog Kontra-Daya on Tuesday called on the Commission on Elections to exercise its authority and resort to a “shame campaign” directed at candidates who have been campaigning, even though they are not allowed to until February 2022.
Kontra-Daya convenor Danilo Arao expressed his group’s disgust on political aspirants’ use of various gimmicks to woo voters’ support still months ahead of the campaign period for the 2022 elections, which will only commence this coming February.
“Dapat kino-call out ng Comelec itong mga maniobra para ’yung mga aktibidad ng gobyerno, halimbawa, ay nahahaluan ng pulitika,” Arao said.
“Bagama’t hindi ito ground for disqualification, dapat i-call out pa rin sila kasi they are making a mockery of the process."
Arao said Comelec can issue a press release or statement mentioning the politician or his political party’s name, or issuing summons to the involved parties and require their explanation.
Arao, a communication professor at University of the Philippines, said candidates are using government programs to promote their candidacies such, as attending vaccination drives.
There are also instances when government resources are being used, such as printing tarpaulins of certain politicians and using government vehicles to transport people or items, or a public venue, he said.
Arao stressed it is not appropriate for the Comelec to maintain its conservative stance by mainly looking at the Omnibus Election Code provisions regarding the start of campaign period since many candidates are already skirting those limitations by using different gimmicks.
“Ang pwede sigurong gawin ng Comelec, for lack of a better term, is public shaming para may masampulan naman sana na mga pulitiko, political parties na gumagawa ng mga ito . . . Sampulan mo lang ang 1, 2 sa kanila, everybody will toe the line na,” he said.
The distribution of cash aid at this point, even if the act itself cannot yet be classified as “vote-buying” since campaign period has yet to start, should be looked into as an “intent” of a politician who is giving it out.
“Sa totoo lang kung gusto mong tumulong bilang pribadong indibidwal, pwede mo namang gawin 'yan. Kaya lang bakit kailangang may bitbit ka pang media, may mga video ka pa, at talagang kumakaway-kaway na parang artista pagka namimigay ka ng pera? Sa ganu'ng klaseng senaryo, talagang hindi katanggap-tanggap tong mga early manifestations ng premature campaigning,” Arao said.
Even political aspirants who use social media to host games or programs should stop that because it is “premature campaigning,” he said.
“Sa media saka sa komunikasyon, alam naman natin na may subtext, mas makapangyarihan pa 'yan kesa du'n sa direktang pagbibigay ng mensahe. At dito sa ating mga nakikita sa social media at sa labas ng internet na nakikita natin na ginagawa ng mga pultiko mas malakas talaga yung tinatawag nating sub-text sa gusto nilang ipaabot na mensahe sa publiko. Sa subtext na iyon hinuhusgahan natin yung kanilang overtures,” Arao said.
An amendment to the election code is needed. An example is those who already filed a certificate of candidacy must be immediately classified by the Comelec as “candidates” right after their COC filing.
Amid all the gimmicks being done by these political aspirants, Arao said: “Ang kampanya sa panahong ito wala dapat. Sapagkat ang kampanya ay mangyayari sa ika-8 pa ng Pebrero . . . Pwede namang tumulong, pero bakit kailangan pa? . . . Tumulong ka na lang bilang ordinaryong mamamayan, wala namang masama doon,” Arao said.
Based on the 2009 decision of the Supreme Court, commonly known as the Penera doctrine, an individual who files his candidacy is only considered a "candidate" at the start of the campaign period.
Comelec earlier set the campaign period for candidates for president, vice president, senators, and party-lists from February 8 to May 7, 2022.
Online stores and vendors, meanwhile, are already cashing in by selling merchandise promoting the country's presidential aspirants in Halalan 2022.