Comelec on Day 1 of campaign: Disappointing

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) was disappointed with the first day of campaigning yesterday as many campaign materials were posted in unauthorized areas.

“As soon as I came out of my house, I saw many campaign materials, and those were major thoroughfares that I passed, so it’s a little disappointing. I even saw posters nailed to trees,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said.

“Please make sure that your campaign materials are posted only in common poster areas... let’s observe fair play,” he urged candidates.

Earlier, the Comelec announced its plan to implement Oplan Baklas, the drive to remove campaign materials posted in unauthorized areas.

Candidates and parties have until tomorrow to take down their illegal campaign materials as the Comelec acknowledges that all materials cannot be removed overnight.

The Philippine National Police said it is ready to provide security to the personnel of Comelec, Metro Manila Development Authority and local government units tasked to remove campaign materials in unauthorized areas.

PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor said at least two policemen would be deployed to secure a “baklas team” but additional policemen would be deployed in critical areas.

The Comelec also reminded campaign managers to make sure that they follow the required sizes of campaign posters, which is 2x3 feet maximum.  

“You cannot put each poster together to form a streamer. One poster will be letter ‘J’ while the next poster will be letter ‘U’ and then ‘A’ and until you form the name ‘Juan’,” Jimenez said.

Political parties holding kick-off rallies must also take down their propaganda materials within 24 hours after the event.

Jimenez urged the public to be vigilant by reporting to Comelec candidates and parties who violate campaign rules.

“Dear citizens, if other candidates are doing illegal posting, it is also wrong if your preferred candidate is the one doing it,” he added. 

Party-list group Agham lauded yesterday the Comelec’s Oplan Baklas.

“Everyone must adhere to the rule of law, especially those seeking elective posts in government. As leaders, politicians must serve as models of respecting election rules and preserving the environment for future generations,” Agham second nominee Leo Santiago said.

Comelec must stop ‘no-el’ statements

Meanwhile, Senate President Franklin Drilon cautioned the Comelec against its statements about a possible delay in the conduct of polls in some areas as it is sowing undue fear among the electorate.

Drilon said that instead of coming out with no-election scenarios that are not only unacceptable but also unconstitutional, the Comelec should just focus on its mandate of ensuring clean, orderly and credible elections on May 9.

“The Comelec should refrain from making speculations which will cause unnecessary fears and doubts among the public regarding the upcoming elections, considering the already tense and toxic political atmosphere,” he added.

Last Monday, Comelec commissioner Christian Robert Lim said the conduct of elections could be delayed in some areas due to compatibility problems in voting systems.

But Drilon noted that as a rule, elections must be held simultaneously throughout the country and can only be postponed in exceptional cases.

 Under the Omnibus Election Code, postponement may only be effected for “serious causes such as violence, terrorism, loss or destruction of election paraphernalia or records, force majeure and other analogous causes of such nature that the holding of a free, orderly and honest election should become impossible in any political subdivision.”

“Failure to execute this very mandate is a violation of the Constitution. The Comelec should exhaust all possible solutions instead of talking about postponement. There’s still time to print the ballots,” Drilon said.

He also warned that failure to conduct simultaneous elections across the country would raise questions about the credibility and integrity of the entire electoral process. 

“Let’s say, hypothetically, that the Comelec, as it had earlier mentioned, decided to postpone the elections in some areas. How would they pick the areas wherein the elections would be suspended? Would they suspend as well the transmission of the results until such time that the elections are held all throughout the country, so that the electorate would not be swayed by early election results?” he asked.

“That is even more problematic and chaotic than to hire more printers to hasten the printing of ballots,” he added. 

Drilon has been pushing for a postponement in the printing of ballots until the Supreme Court issues a final ruling on the disqualification case against presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe and any other similar cases.

Poe, a foundling, has sought relief from the Supreme Court after the Comelec disqualified her as a candidate because of citizenship and residency issues.  – With Marvin Sy, Jess Diaz, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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