Discombobulated-A A +A
Monday, February 25, 2013
ON JAN. 15 this year, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) issued Resolution No. 9615, also known as the “Rules and Regulations Implementing Republic Act No. 9006, Otherwise Known as the ‘Fair Election Act’ in Connection to the 13 May 2013 National and Local Elections, and Subsequent Elections.”
Section 31 of the Resolution provides: “It is unlawful for any candidate, party or any person to give or accept, free of charge, directly or indirectly, transportation, food and drinks, or anything of value during and within five (5) hours before and after a public meeting, or to give or contribute, directly or indirectly, money or things of value for such purpose.”
What is the sanction if you violate RA 9006 and/or Resolution No. 9615? The answer is provided in Section 35 of the Resolution: “Any violation of RA 9006 and these Rules shall constitute an election offense punishable under the first and second paragraph of Section 264 of the Omnibus Election Code in addition to administrative liability, whenever applicable.”
And what does Section 264 of the Omnibus Election Code say?
“Any person found guilty of any election offense under this Code shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years and shall not be subject to probation. In addition the guilty party shall be sentenced to suffer disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage.”
I did not pay much attention to Section 31 and its related laws and issuances until I spoke to Eddie Aba, the amiable Cebu provincial election supervisor. Now, I have many questions.
If I invited a friend to accompany me to a rally and he accepted the offer and rode with me in my car, did we violate Section 31? Will be spending between one and six years in jail? Note that the rule punishes both the act of giving and accepting transportation, among others, free of charge.
If, while listening to speakers during the rally, I become thirsty and draw water from a dispenser provided by rally organizers, am I committing an election offense for accepting drinks or “anything of value” within five hours before and five hours after a meeting?
If, having gotten bored by the windy speeches, I feel a craving for a smoke and, seeing a friend, ask for a puff, will we both be spending time in jail if he grants my request and he happens to be a political leader?
If my political leader friend discovers at the end of the rally that his motorcycle has run out of gas and the service stations are already closed, can I offer him a little from my tank without worrying about spending the next six years under incarceration?
Should the responsible Philippine Games and Amusements Corp. (Pagcor) officers be jailed for offering the use of their umbrellas during the Liberal Party rally in Talisay a couple of weeks ago?
Should City Hall officials be disqualified from holding public office for making available Cebu City’s buses for some of those who attended the United Nationalist Alliance proclamation rally in Plaza Independencia on Feb. 12?
Should organizers of the LP rally in Liloan be similarly penalized for distributing lunch packs to the people?
As you can see, I have a very difficult time trying to make sense of Section 31 of Resolution No. 9615. As if that is not enough, here comes par. 2 of Section 1 of the same Resolution: “The term ‘candidate’ refers to any person seeking an elective public office, who has filed his certificate of candidacy, and who has not died…Provided that, unlawful acts or omissions applicable to a candidate shall take effect only upon the start of the aforesaid campaign period.”
Now I know what discombobulated means.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 26, 2013.