Avoid circus, Comelec tells pols

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Make it festive, but please avoid a circus.

A touch of sobriety would go a long way as the weeklong filing of certificates of candidacy or COCs for the 2016 elections gets underway today, according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

The Comelec yesterday made one last appeal for candidates filing their COCs to make the occasion dignified and solemn and rein in the usual extravagant display of public support.

The poll body is bracing for the throngs trooping to the Comelec main office in Intramuros, Manila with circus-like fanfare signaling the start of the election season.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista stressed candidates should keep the sanctity of the election process when they file their COCs.

“We want it orderly, solemn but, at the same time, also fun. To me, it’s a happy occasion. It celebrates our democracy, but they should not forget the sacredness of the elections,” Bautista said.

Candidates usually arrive with hordes of supporters and have various attention-getting gimmicks.

Comelec Commissioner Luie Guia said candidates should consider the process of filing the COC as “solemn, sacred and dignified.”

“You are putting yourselves before the people and presenting yourself as someone capable of leading the country,” Guia reminded candidates. “So make it a bit more solemn instead of purely festive.”

Expecting huge crowds, the police also appealed for discipline and order.

National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director Chief Superintendent Joel Pagdilao said policemen will be deployed in all roads leading to the Comelec office in Intramuros.

He said policemen will also be present in churches where candidates are expected to attend mass before proceeding to the Comelec to file their COCs.

Pagdilao warned candidates and supporters against carrying firearms and other deadly weapons during the filing.

“We will be on a lookout for politicians or persons bringing along firearms and bladed weapons. They will be arrested, so I’m appealing to them not to test our will because we are bent on enforcing the law no matter who they are,” Pagdilao said.

So far, the NCRPO has not received any request for security from candidates, he said.

“We expect no trouble during the start of the filing of COCs as not a single candidate coordinated with us due to threat on their lives,” Pagdilao added.

Comelec also reminded government officials and employees against overtly showing their support for any candidate.

“Civil servants are not allowed to participate in partisan politics, cannot engage in partisan political activities, which means that they cannot come out to support a particular candidate,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said.

The Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) aired the same advice while calling on government employees to stay away from candidates who will be filing the COCs.

“They are not allowed to join filing of COCs because that’s a partisan activity,” LENTE executive director Rona Ann Caritos said.

But Comelec and LENTE admitted that appointed government employees and officials are not covered by the prohibition.

“(They are occupying) political positions so there is no problem if and when they engage in partisan political activities,”  Caritos pointed out.

An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) appealed to candidates to first reflect and make sure that they are doing it for the welfare of Filipinos before filing COCs.

“Candidates must be willing to sacrifice their personal interests for the sake of those who have nothing in life,” CBCP executive secretary Fr. Jerome Secillano said.

“I pray that they may be guided in their pursuit of the common good as they shun the temptation to merely work for their personal good,” he added.

Secillano stressed that public service is not aimed at helping themselves and their families, friends, and allies only.

“Those vying for elective positions must be reminded not of the perks and grandeur they can possibly acquire but of the poor pinning their hopes and future on them,” he said.

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) earlier made the same call.

“I would like to remind them to really reflect on what really is their motivation in seeking public office,” PPCRV chair Henrietta de Villa said.

Candidates who are filing their COCs are expected to troop to the Comelec starting today until Friday afternoon.

Watch outside

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said candidates are not barred from resorting to gimmicky as long as the process of filing will be orderly.

To ensure orderliness of the filing process, the Comelec is requiring candidates to have only three companions in the Comelec building.

Other companions and supporters of the candidates will have to wait outside the building where they can watch the entire process through monitors.

Jimenez said they are putting up two large video screens to update the supporters of candidates on what is happening inside.

“You will not be shut out because we have two big monitors outside. Instead of adding to the crowd inside, you might as well watch the monitors,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez reminded candidates to ensure they have with them all the required documents to make the process faster and easier. 

There are of 18,069 positions, including one president and one vice president that will be up for grabs in the May 9, 2016 elections.

Aside from the top two posts, the voters will select 12 senators; 58 party-list representatives; 235 district congressmen; 81 governors; 81 vice governors; 772 members of Sangguniang Panlalawigan (provincial board members); 144 city mayors; 144 city vice mayors; 1,610 city councilors; 1,490 municipal mayors; 1,490 municipal vice mayors; 11,924 municipal councilors; one governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; ARMM vice governor; and 24 ARMM assemblymen.

Those running for national positions will file their COCs before the Comelec main office in Intramuros, Manila while local candidates file theirs before Comelec district offices.

In a resolution issued earlier, the Comelec mandates candidates to file the COC personally or through a duly authorized representative with a sworn and signed Authority to File the COC.

Comelec said the COCs cannot be filed via mail, electronic mail, or facsimile.

Bautista said candidates are advised to file their COCs early and to bring the COC forms already filled up and notarized to avoid any delay in the procedure.

According to Jimenez, those who file their COCs early can attract more attention than the latecomers.

“They can enjoy attention than if they file their COCs with the bigger group of candidates who will be filing on the last day.”

He said there is no prohibition yet for those who will file their COC because the campaign period is set to start in February.

The COC forms for all elective posts can be downloaded at the Comelec website: http://www.comelec.gov.ph/.

Candidates with political parties must also submit their Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance (CONAs).

Candidates formerly with foreign citizenship must submit a copy of their Sworn Renunciation of Foreign Citizenship.

“The Receiving Officer shall have the ministerial duty to receive and acknowledge the receipt of the COC,” the Comelec said.

Jimenez said the poll body would strictly scrutinize the COC forms and other requirements during the filing.

After the filing of COC, Jimenez said, candidates may use a separate area in the Comelec building for media interviews.

Nuisance candidates are also expected to join the five-day filing of COCs and they cannot be restrained from doing so.

But Bautista said the Comelec will assess all the COCs and boot out those not qualified to run.

The Comelec is set to come out with the official list of candidates in the 2016 elections by December. –Edu Punay, Non Alquitran

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