The Commission on Elections is ready to disqualify candidates who violate the rules on campaigning, especially the posting of posters and other materials, as early as the first week of the campaign period.
“Pag may nadisqualify kami on the first week, tingnan natin kung may magdidikit pa ng poster diyan. We have to send a very strong message na hindi na kami nakikipagbiro ngayon sa taong pulitiko (If we have disqualified someone on the first week, we’ll see if candidates will still post posters anywhere. We have to send a very strong message that we’re no longer fooling around),“Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said on Wednesday.
Candidates are only allowed to post campaign materials in designated common poster areas and private places with the owner’s consent. There must be at least one poster area for every 5,000 registered voters.
The official campaign period for senators and party-lists starts on Feb. 12. Local candidates can start campaigning only on March 30.
The campaign for local officials was supposed to start on March 29, but Comelec moved it one day later since the March 29 is Good Friday. Campaigning is prohibited on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the eve of the elections and election day itself.
Brillantes said Comelec will crack down on erring politicians who will violate the Fair Elections Act, a law that provides equal access to political candidates during the campaign period.
The strict implementation of campaigning rules is apparently Comelec’s way of getting back at politicians who have flooded televisions, radios and public areas with advertisements and tarpaulins bearing their faces and advocacies.
“Mahigpit na mahigpit dahil because medyo inabuso niyo ng konti yung walang premature campaigning (We are very strict because they took advantage of the fact that nothing is considered as premature campaigning),” Brillantes said.
Comelec cannot go after political advertisements since a 2009 Supreme Court decision ruled that partisan political activities committed before the campaign period are part of freedom of expression. In Peñera v. Comelec, election offenses are committed only during the campaign period since there are no “candidates” to speak of before it.
As part of Comelec’s strict monitoring in campaigning, Brillantes said they will be monitoring online activities of candidates during the campaign period.
In Resolution 9615, Comelec will measure materials based on pixel size and candidates can only post online ads thrice a week.
The online campaigning rules would serve as “deterrent” to candidates who may abuse the Internet to get more voters, Brillantes said.
Online campaigns are “relatively” new compared to traditional media like television and radio.
Brillante said the poll body can supplement or amend the rules on online campaigning after they assess the medium in the first few weeks of campaign.
Comelec is also ending the practice of “airtime sharing” among candidates where two candidates appear in one advertisement to skirt around the limit set by the Fair Elections Act: 120 minutes for television and 180 minutes for radio.
He cited an example where a party-list and a senatorial candidate collaborate in a one-minute ad. Instead of getting 30 seconds apiece for the campaign ad, each party-list and senatorial candidate would spend a minute each in the airtime limit.
“Gawin niyo, wala kayong pakinabang (They can do it but they won’t benefit),” Brillantes said Monday.