Comelec’s bark-A A +A
Saturday, February 16, 2013
IT IS in times like this that Commission on Election (Comelec) officials bark loudly. Unfortunately, experience has taught us that poll officials are all bark and no bite.
I am not saying that what Comelec officials, like Cebu Provincial Election Supervisor Eddie Aba, are doing is bad. Aba has issued a memorandum for Comelec officers to strictly implement the Fair Elections Act. The move looks good in the early stages of the campaign period. But we all know what usually happens as the election campaign intensifies.
Much noise has been made, for example about the use by local stalwarts of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of government vehicles during its proclamation rally at the Plaza Independencia last Tuesday. Cebu Comelec officials are going through the motion of investigating the supposed violation probably because Rep. Tomas Osmeña ranted about it.
What would be the outcome of the probe can be a matter of conjecture. One of these conjectures can be summed up in the popular Cebuano phrase: mahug sa linaw dayon katunaw.
What is most nauseating, though, is the talk about giving candidates equal opportunity during the campaign period. Comelec Resolution 9615 or the Rules and Regulations Implementing Republic Act 9006 (Fair Elections Act) even details the manner the fairness rule should be implemented, especially on the use of media.
But the reality is that no high-profile violators have been prosecuted in past elections by the Comelec. Consider, for example, the 2010 presidential polls.
As early as March of that year, election watchdog Pera at Pulitika Network already pointed out that the two leading presidential bets at that time, Manuel Villar of the Nacionalista Party and Benigno Aquino III of the Liberal Party had exceeded the air time limit allotted to them in each of the country’s top two TV networks. The claim was based on data provided by AC Nielsen.
The candidates were allotted 120 minute of airtime. Villar’s political advertisements aired over GMA 7 totaled 128.25 minutes and those over ABS-CBN totaled 122.5 minutes.
Aquino’s political ads totaled 118 minutes over GMA 7 and 129 minutes over ABS-CBN.
That was still late March or more than one month before the May 2010 polls.
An official of Pera at Pulitika Network passed on to Comelec the decision of whether to prosecute or not the erring candidates. Villar would later claim that an error was committed in the computation of the airtime. That would have been subject of an “investigation” but Comelec did not initiate one. In the end, the matter was “forgotten.”
Then there is the issue of premature campaigning, whose definition handed down by the Supreme Court ended up as being laughable (a candidate can campaign all he wants as long as he or she has not filed his or her certificate of candidacy yet). Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes had earlier promised to initiate moves to correct the “anomaly.” Nothing came out of that promise.
And so we had that situation wherein the then would-be Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) candidates went on a campaign spree, hanging big “Type O” banners everywhere and pasting campaign posters on walls months before the official start of the campaign period. It was a mockery of the electoral process but no one could be prosecuted for it.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 17, 2013.