MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) vowed to file, for the first time, “as many cases as necessary” against politicians who will break its campaign rules by Tuesday, February 12.
But what if candidates shrug off the Comelec’s warnings? What if they engage in massive defiance beginning Tuesday, the official start of the campaign period for national candidates?
Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr didn’t think twice. “Magkakaroon din ng massive disqualification,” Brillantes told Rappler. (There will also be massive disqualification.)
He said the Comelec, however, might not have to do this after all. Noting the deterrent effect of the Comelec’s campaign rules, the veteran election lawyer said: “They will not take the risk.”
Brillantes said that nevertheless, the Comelec is now spotting possible violations of campaign rules.
In an interview with reporters, Brillantes said the Comelec will send letters to reported violators. He said the poll body “will use all means” to notify affected candidates. (Watch more in the video below.)
“Kung puwede magtanggal na sila ngayon para hindi na sila makatanggap ng sulat bukas,” Brillantes said Monday, February 11. (If they can remove the posters now, better, so they wouldn’t have to receive letters tomorrow.)
He also said the Comelec has had enough, after politicians made the most of a legal loophole to campaign prematurely.
“They’ve taken advantage of the law on premature campaigning. Now it’s the campaign period; it’s time to follow the law. On our part, we’ll strictly implement the law to make sure everyone follows,” he explained.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez on Monday also warned violators of campaign rules, popularly called “epals” or publicity-hungry politicians. “Kung epal ka ngayon, bukas kriminal ka na,” Jimenez said. (If you’re an epal now, tomorrow you become a criminal.)
In an interview with Rappler, Jimenez said the Comelec doesn’t target a specific number of cases to be filed.
“Hindi kami naghahabol ng bilang ng kakasuhan. Ang hinahabol namin, compliance,” he explained. (We are not targeting a specific number of cases to be filed. What we’re after is compliance.) So we will file as many cases as necessary, to drive the message home that you cannot get away with violating the rules.”
BY PATERNO ESMAQUEL II rappler