Random ramblings from a national democrat.
Barely three months before the election campaign proper, one need not look hard for nominees trying out their own stint at early, illegal, electioneering.
You see it in tarpolines, in past local projects with the said “epal’s” face advertised all year-round, and in irritating “public service announcements” in TV commercials — and they seem to get away with it with impunity.
With the advancement of technology and the influx of Filipinos online, unfortunately, not even the online world was spared from these shameful acts, all in the name of recognizability and recall, which could be achieved through repetitive and catchy ads.
According to the Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code, it is prohibited for candidates to campaign prior to the allotted campaign period. As far as the elections are concerned however, online campaigning thus become technically covered under current provisions governing elections.
For aspiring senators and party-list groups, campaign season officially caps off on Feb. 12 , and on March 29 for congressmen and local officials. However, over the past weeks, various Facebook ads (both paid and voluntary posts) and Youtube videos have graced the social media as if it were a legal, ethical practice –just as pirated DVDs are displayed in public. Just as the latter, the former could get away with it with little to no remorse.
Government admits to lack of teeth on offenders
With laws supposedly policing the political spectacle, candidates are expected to observe such prohibitions.
However, in a recent article from the Philippine Information Agency, the Comelec admits that the provision lacks “teeth” to apprehend politicians from doing so.
“Our hands are tied when it comes to premature campaigning but candidates who have already filed their Certificates of Candidacy (COC) but who have their images displayed on large tarpolines, billboards and other campaign materials should be warned that it can be a ground for disqualification later on,” Comelec Provincial Election Supervisor Atty. Gay Enumerables said.
With lack of a specific law penalizing pre-mature elections, Enumerables adds that it would be hard to prosecute those who go around the technicalities of said Omnibus provision.
Why the need for such prohibitions?
The need for the prohibition is clear — to level the playing field for all candidates by regulating campaign period to a specific period. With people advertising and appearing everywhere before everyone else, it places the candidate to an obvious advantage.
Contradictory Laws, Court Rulings vs. Implementation of Omnibous Code
Aside from the lack of law, one reason for the easy bypass of the Omnibus code might be that of the Penera vs Comelec case, which stressed the amendments on the Republic Act 9369. Such ruling stated that “any person who files his certificate of candidacy within [the filing] period shall only be considered a candidate at the start of the campaign period for which he filed his certificate of candidacy (COCs).”
Enumerables states that it would be pretty hard to accuse candidates of early electioneering online for they are only considered as one in the campaign season proper.
Due to the early filing of COCs on one hand, it would be pretty easy for politicians to either use the alibi of “merely publicly stating their intention to run. However, with today’s internet capabilities and accessibility for many, a candidate’s disqualification might just be “a screen cap away.”
Dates to remember prior the 2013 Elections:
January 2-15 : Constitution of Election Inspectors and Canvassers
January 13 – June 12 : Election Period
Febuary 12 – May 11: Campaign period for Senators and Partylist groups
March 29 – May 11: Campaign period for candidates for congressmen and local officials
March 29 – April 13: Inspection, verification and sealing of the precinct book of voters
April 13 – May 13: Voting for overseas voters
May 6 – May 10: Testing and sealing of PCOS machines
13 May: ELECTION DAY
12 Hun: Last day to file statements of contributions and expenditures