Commission on Elections spokesman James Jimenez holds up a sample ballot during the start of printing of ballots for the May 13 polls at the National Printing Office in Quezon City yesterday.
Commission on Elections spokesman James Jimenez holds up a sample ballot during the start of printing of ballots for the May 13 polls at the National Printing Office in Quezon City yesterday.
Boy Santos
‘Follow poster rules or face sanctions’
Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - February 10, 2019 - 12:00am

Campaign period begins Tuesday

MANILA, Philippines — The 90-day campaign period for senatorial candidates and party-list groups starts on Feb. 12 with a stern warning from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to take down unlawful campaign materials. 

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the Comelec’s education and information division’s Operation Baklas is coordinating with the Department of Public Works and Highways and Metro Manila Development Authority to remove unlawful campaign materials.

Jimenez warned that the Comelec will hold candidates and parties accountable for illegal campaign materials even if they claim that these were put up by others or without their knowledge.

“If the materials are still up after the start of the campaign period, then it can be presumed they are up because candidates allow them to remain up. It is clear that they are benefitting from the presence of these materials and that might be a way to hold them liable,” he said.

Jimenez explained that all existing campaign materials are “automatically in violation of campaign rules” so they have to be removed before Feb. 12.

“We are sending out letters to the political parties and candidates, advising them of the need to take down their materials. We don’t expect them to reply to us (in writing) but we do expect to see compliance by Feb. 12,“ Jimenez said in a press briefing.

“Many of the materials are so big while our limit size for campaign materials is 2x3 feet or 3x2 feet depending on the orientation that you like,” Jimenez said.

The campaign materials are also situated in places that are outside the common poster areas that will be determined by the Comelec’s election officers in each locality, Jimenez added.

Posters may be put up in private property but this must have the permission of the owner and the required size of the materials will also have to be observed.

Comelec Resolution No. 10429, promulgated on Oct. 1, 2018 sets the campaign period for national candidates from Feb. 12 to May 11.  

During this time, they are prohibited from “giving donations, or gift in cash or in kind,” among others; otherwise they shall be held liable for election offense.

There are 62 candidates vying for the 12 slots in the Senate while 134 party-list group are gunning for seats in the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, Comelec Resolution No. 10429 sets the 45-day campaign period for local bets from March 29 to May 11.

Source code

As this developed, the Comelec yesterday deposited at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) the source code that will be used for the elections. 

Jimenez said the transfer was in compliance with Republic Act 9369, which requires the poll body to put the source code in escrow with the BSP. 

“We are doing this for safekeeping and to make sure that there is a copy that we can refer to in the future if ever the integrity of the machines are called into question,” Jimenez told reporters at the BSP. 

Before the transfer of the source code, Comelec officials Jose Tolentino Jr., executive director of the office of the executive director and law department, and Bartolome Sinocruz Jr., deputy executive director for operations, signed an escrow agreement with the BSP’s Josephine Olivete, director of cash deposit; Elmore Capule, senior assistant governor and general counsel, legal services; and Dahlia Luna, senior assistant governor, currency management sector. 

Tolentino noted that the integrity, reliability and credibility of the source code had never been questioned since they started depositing it at the BSP in 2010. 

After the signing of the agreement, the BSP and Comelec officials opened before reporters the two boxes: a yellow ballot box and a black box containing the three major components of the source code – election management system, vote counting machine (VCM) and the counting and consolidation system. 

The source code was put in the protected vault of the BSP, with the officials and media as witnesses.

The Comelec needs a court order and authority from the electoral tribunals to open the vault and retrieve the source code.

Printing of ballots

The printing machines of the National Printing Office started running yesterday for more than 63 million official ballots that will be used on May 13.

According to Ma. Victoria Dulcero, vice chair of the Comelec’s printing committee, they would be printing a total of 63,622,481 ballots.  

Of the ballots, 61,803,771 are for voting in the Philippines while 1,818,710 are for overseas absentee voters (OAVs).

The Comelec is also printing 1,142,063 ballots that will be used for the final testing and sealing prior to election day to test the VCMs.

The Comelec has prioritized the printing of ballots for OAVs, whose month-long voting starts on April 13. 

Dulcero noted that the printing of ballots will be done based on priority areas, starting with the provinces in Mindanao, followed by the Visayas, Luzon and Metro Manila.

She added that they expect the printing to be completed by April 25 but the ballots will still undergo various processes, particularly verification with the use of 250 VCMs being operated by 500 personnel taking turns in two shifts. 

Verified ballots will then be prepared by the packing and shipping committee for delivery to the Comelec’s regional hubs across the country until their shipment to their intended destination on May 13. 

The start of the printing was witnessed by Alexander Ramos, representative of PDP-Laban and Hubert Guevarra, representative of Nationalist People’s Coalition and Ang Kabuhayan party-list group. 

Ramos told The STAR that they would be closely monitoring the printing, packing and delivery processes. 

“We will have 24/7 observers here to ensure that public interest is protected. We are not saying that there will be issues but we want to know what is happening on a day-to-day basis and let the public decide if there is an issue or not,” Ramos maintained.

Security

The security template used during the recently-concluded Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscites in Mindanao will be reviewed for readjustment in the May elections, the military said yesterday.

Col. Noel Detoyato, Armed Forces of the Philippines public affairs office chief, said the military and its police counterparts have been deputized by the Comelec to enforce security measures nationwide.

“Our BOL plebiscite security template will be reviewed and will be readjusted to cover all other critical areas or the so-called election hotspots across the country prior, during and after the mid-term elections,” Detoyato said.

Areas of election concerns due to political rivalry include several towns in Regions 1, 2, 4A, 5 as well as the Visayas and Mindanao, specifically in the towns and villages comprising the former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. – With Robertzon Ramirez, Jaime Laude

2019 MIDTERM ELECTIONS CAMPAIGN PERIOD COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS
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