EDITORIAL - Penalize violators
(The Philippine Star) - February 5, 2016 - 9:00am

As the official campaign period approaches, the Commission on Elections has launched a shame campaign against “epal” candidates who post unlawful propaganda materials. The Comelec is calling for public cooperation through its partnership with Facebook and Twitter.

There will be no lack of people who will participate in this campaign. The Comelec may be deluged with photos on social media of campaign posters and streamers attached to walls, lamp posts, power lines and tree branches, with candidates finding every imaginable excuse to greet the public. When candidates run out of holidays, they issue statements in the guise of public service, reminding people about dates for paying taxes or even offering free circumcision.

The question is what the Comelec will do once it receives reports of unlawful campaign practices. In the 2013 polls, the Comelec also announced that it would tap social media to go after violators of election rules. That campaign ended with a whimper.

With a new Comelec team now in place, can the revived campaign have any impact? In every electoral exercise, the poll body has tried to regulate the display of campaign materials together with spending for such items. In every election, the Comelec designates common poster areas. Around the country, however, common poster areas and other election rules are ignored with impunity.

The Comelec has been further defanged by a Supreme Court ruling that effectively allows candidates to spend to their heart’s content for their campaigns, without worrying about being penalized for premature campaigning because such a creature no longer exists.

On Tuesday the Metro Manila Development Authority will step in and launch “Oplan Baklas,” removing all campaign materials posted in unauthorized places. With reporting from the public particularly through social media, perhaps the campaign will have a better outcome than in previous election periods.

The best way to stop the impunity, however, is to penalize candidates and their parties found to be breaking the rules. As in crimes and violations of government regulations, election laws will continue to be broken as long as candidates know they will get away with it.

ACIRC CAMPAIGN CANDIDATES COMELEC ELECTION FACEBOOK AND TWITTER MATERIALS ON TUESDAY THE METRO MANILA DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY OPLAN BAKLAS PUBLIC SUPREME COURT
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