DILG warns barangay officials vs campaigning for candidates

Romina Cabrera - The Philippine Star
DILG warns barangay officials vs campaigning for candidates
In an interview over dzBB, DILG Undersecretary Martin Diño yesterday said the prohibition is clearly stated in the Omnibus Election Code and reaffirmed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) through various orders.
Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has warned barangay officials against endorsing or campaigning for any candidate in the coming elections.

In an interview over dzBB, DILG Undersecretary Martin Diño yesterday said the prohibition is clearly stated in the Omnibus Election Code and reaffirmed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) through various orders.

“It’s there, very clear, not just barangay but barangay officials. Now who are the officials of barangay? Barangay captains, barangay kagawad, barangay secretary, barangay treasurer,” he said in Filipino.

He said erring barangay officials, if found guilty, face suspension or removal from office. Diño said evidence may include photos or videos of incidents showing barangay officials openly campaigning for candidates.

“Now if you get photographed or videotaped (violating the rule) and cases are filed against you with the civil service or the Comelec, then I’m out of it because the Comelec has the power to suspend or remove (violators) from office. So let’s be clear about it,” he said, addressing barangay officials.

The DILG official noted that exempted from CSC and Comelec rule against non-partisan activities are higher national and local officials.

The CSC has reminded civil servants not to engage in electioneering to ensure they remain focused on their duties and functions, and their positions insulated from politics.

Civil servants may still cast their votes, express their views, mention the names of their preferred candidates, and express their opinion as long as they don’t use the gesture to solicit support for any candidate or party during the campaign period.

Meanwhile, candidates who would skip the televised presidential debate on Sunday organized by the Comelec won’t have to worry about getting seriously penalized.

Comelec Commissioner George Garcia told “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News on Wednesday that the poll body as a whole had discussed plans to impose additional sanction against debate skipper but eventually gave up after finding no provision in the law supporting such plan.

“We really had talked about it, but to tell you frankly even if we examine the law there is nothing in it related to presidential, vice presidential, or whatever debate,” Garcia said in Filipino when asked for updates on the second round of the presidential debate.

“We can’t come up with additional sanction because there really is no law to support it. That’s the hard part,” he said.

Not an offense

Garcia explained that it would be unconstitutional for the Comelec to disqualify debate skippers, as such action is not even considered an offense under the Omnibus Election Code.

He emphasized that they cannot also prohibit debate skippers from posting campaign materials in common poster areas. He said the right of every candidate regarding common poster areas is guaranteed under the law.

The poll official said it’s the task of the new Congress to pass laws making attendance in debates by candidates mandatory.

“Enacting resolutions that are technically not in the law is unconstitutional; that’s illegal. But what can we do? We wanted to ensure honest and clean elections, but our present laws are not enough to support the goodness of the intention of the Comelec,” he added.

But Garcia revealed they have instructed the poll body’s law department and the education and information division to submit “at least a credible approach in order to impose the proper additional sanctions.”

He added that they are not yet giving up on the matter, stressing that it is their responsibility to voters and to candidates present in the debates to come up with stiffer penalties against those who shun the exercise.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said that all presidential candidates have confirmed participation in the debate, except one. Former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had made it clear he would never attend debates.

To attend the televised debate on April 3 are former presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, labor leader Leody de Guzman, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, former defense chief Norberto Gonzales, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, businessman Faisal Mangondato, lawyer-doctor Jose Montemayor, Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Vice President Leni Robredo.

Jimenez said that there will be some changes in the format of the presidential debate on Sunday.

He said there will be one general question for all candidates at the start of the debate. In the previous debate, candidates were asked to answer one general question per segment.

For the succeeding segment, he said the candidates would be divided in groups of three where each group would be given one topic to debate on, which means there will be a total of three questions for each succeeding segment.

He said that there will be a total of four segments under the new format, and each candidate will be given two minutes to answer the question and 30 second each for rebuttal.

“Groups of three will change with each segment. Each group will be randomly predetermined via a drawing of lots which will happen two hours before the debate, or at 5:00 pm. A 60-second closing statement will be given for all candidates,” he said.

Jimenez said that the topics for Sunday’s debate will revolve around government accountability and politics.— Robertzon Ramirez

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