CELEBRITIES endorsing political candidates this coming elections are not required to resign, clarified the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Monday.
“There is no requirement from Comelec for a particular media practitioner to resign or to take a leave. The discretion is left to network or person involved,” said Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal.
The Comelec official said this was the consensus reached by the commission en banc in its weekly meeting.
Section 6 (6.6) of the Fair Elections Act states: “Any mass media columnist, commentator, announcer, reporter, on-air correspondent or personality who is a candidate for any elective public office or is a campaign volunteer for or employed or retained in any capacity by any candidate or political party shall be deemed resigned, if so required by their employer, or shall take a leave of absence from his/her work as such during the campaign period.”
Earlier, the Parish Pastoral Council on Responsible Voting (PPCRV) appealed to celebrities to go on leave in accordance with the said act.
PPCRV chairperson Henrietta de Villa in a television interview said: "If they will continue to endorse these politicians, then it is just only right that they go on leave until Election Day.”
But Larrazabal argued that the law is very clear in stating that celebrity endorsers are not required to resign or go on leave.
Although the poll body will no longer come out with guidelines on celebrity endorsements, Larrazabal warned on artists using their air time on endorsing candidates.
“They should not use their air time to promote a political party or candidate," said the commissioner.
Celebrities who will use their air time for promotion may face an election offense of imprisonment of one to six years and might be deprived of their right of suffrage.
“We can monitor (these acts) but it would be better if there is a complaint explaining a particular committed by the individual,” furthered Larrazabal.
Major television network ABS-CBN has already issued a statement on the matter, saying its policy is consistent with the Fair Elections Act. “Our on-cam talents are prohibited from using ABS-CBN programs and platforms during the official campaign period, in whatever form or manner, to favor any political candidate, political party or party list organization.”
GMA Network meanwhile stated: “GMA Network is advising its talents that they have to take a leave of absence if they continue to campaign for or endorse candidates or political parties during the campaign period, even if the taping of their participation in the promotion or plug of the candidate was done before the campaign period.”
Kapamilya game show host and Lakas-Kampi-CMD vice presidential bet Edu Manzano earlier sought clarification on the rule (celebrity endorsements) through election lawyer Romulo Macalintal.
Larrazabal said they will issue their reply on the letter filed by Manzano this week.
Among those celebrities who have already endorsed politicians are Vilma Santos, Kris Aquino, Boy Abunda, Ai-Ai delas Alas, Dingdong Dantes, Marian Rivera, Ogie Alcasid, Regine Velasquez, Bea Alonzo, and Anne Curtis for Liberal Party standard bearer Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.
Nacionalista Party presidential bet Manny Villar is endorsed by comedy king Dolphy, Willie Revillame, Sarah Geronimo, boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, and Kapuso matinee idol Richard Gutierrez. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)