The election watchdog of National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) says early campaign advertisements may be legal but they are unethical, even as some voters express dismay over candidates engaging in premature campaigning.
The campaign period starts on February 12 for national candidates and March 30 for local candidates.
Eric Alvia, Namfrel Secretary-General, describes most of the campaign ads that are airing weeks before the official campaign period starts as self-serving and tending to promote the person more than issues the candidate is trying to advance: “What is legal may not be moral or ethical. It says a lot … If you really believe in the law, as much as possible try to abide by the law … by the principle of the law … or intent of the law.”
The Commission on Elections had earlier stated that there is nothing illegal with airing campaign ads as early as now, since the Omnibus Election Code does not ban premature campaigning.
Moreover, in the case Lanot versus Comelec in 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that political promotion done outside the campaign period forms part of the aspirants’ freedom of expression.
Also, in the 2009 decision Peñera versus Comelec, the high court ruled that elective aspirants can promote themselves before the scheduled campaign period since they are not yet considered candidates at the time.
Earl Parreno of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, a political analyst, says it is not unusual for candidates to grab the opportunity to promote themselves to the public, as name recall plays a significant part in a voter’s decision especially in an election that has dozens of candidates to choose from.
In effect, he adds, the more the candidates are exposed to the media, the greater their chances are of being remembered by the voters on election day.
Parreno, however, says premature campaigning may also backfire: “Pag naoverload ang tao sa ad, nagsasawa na, nawawala effect. Sinusuka na, diba (When people suffer from ad overload, they get bored, the effect diminishes. It makes people want to throw up, doesn’t it)?”
To prevent this from happening, Parreno says candidates should come up with varying campaign ads to keep the voters’ interest high.
Meanwhile, Solar News went around and asked voters on the impact of early campaign ads. Some expressed dismay over politicians who engage in premature campaigning, while others say the ads help them get to know a bit more of the candidate.
But many say these campaign ads may not affect their decision on who they will vote on election day, as they will go for candidates who have proven what they can do for the country. By Joyce Ilas