A ‘toothless tiger’-A A +A
Sunday, February 24, 2013
BECAUSE of persistent media reports, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) was forced to conduct a “motu propio”
investigation on the alleged violations committed by national political parties, which held their rallies here in Cebu recently.
I said “forced” because the local poll body would have not initiated these investigations without the persistent prodding of the local media. Nobody had filed a complaint before the local Comelec office with regards to these alleged violations.
What are these alleged violations? One of them was the alleged use of Cebu City Government resources like vehicles and materials to construct the stage used during the proclamation rally of the United Nationalists Alliance (UNA), allegedly on Mayor Michael Rama’s orders. The mayor’s Team Rama is affiliated with the UNA, which is headed by Vice President Jejomar Binay.
The other was the alleged participation of police personnel from the Regional Public Safety Battalion who were allegedly used as “umbrella boys” during the rally of the administration’s Liberal Party (LP) in Tabunok, Talisay City . Cebu was experiencing bad weather during the rally, which prompted organizers to transfer the venue from Barangay Pook in front of City Hall to the gym in Tabunok.
There was also the alleged distribution of pack lunches during the LP rally in Liloan town. Comelec insists that giving food right after a rally violates election laws. Never mind the posters and other forms of propaganda materials that are all over the metro since the Comelec is inutile when it comes to these. Poll officials have been claiming that the candidates or the political parties responsible for these political wall literatures have not violated any law since there is none that prohibits pre-mature campaigning.
As of this time, local candidates are free to do whatever they want. It is still a free-for-all, Comelec officials said.
Restrictions will only be imposed once the campaign period for local candidates starts on March 29. Only then can Comelec order the removal of campaign materials that are posted in non-designated poster areas. But who will remove these? The concerned candidates?
The City’s anti-loitering body or Comelec itself?
I doubt Comelec can come up with findings, recommendations or even disciplinary actions against those who committed the mentioned violations before March 29. Correct me if I am wrong, but I have yet to hear of Comelec disqualifying a candidate for violating elections laws like posting his/her campaign materials in non-designated poster areas or alleged vote-buying.
Vote-buying has been part of our electoral system since time immemorial. There are many forms of vote-buying. It’s not only when money changes hands the night before the election or the day of the election. Candidates offering “eat all you can” in their residence to voters months or weeks before the election is also vote-buying.
Giving financial assistance to some sectors, distributing Philhealth cards, insurance and providing voters transportation, food and “honorarium” during rallies and on Election Day are other forms.
And what is the Comelec doing about these daring and glaring violations committed by some politicians? It seems the poll body is a “toothless tiger.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 25, 2013.