A COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) official thinks award-winning actress Judy Ann Santos will be a good pick among the celebrities who may volunteer for the poll body's voter education campaign.

Comelec Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer said the drama star is an ideal choice because “she had a public announcement that she will not be endorsing any candidate in the May polls.”

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Santos earlier told the entertainment press that she was hurt with the statement of independent presidential candidate Jamby Madrigal, saying she regretted having hired a celebrity to endorse her.

Madrigal ran in 2007 and won with the help of Santos who campaigned for her.

The commission appealed to celebrities and media personalities Thursday for their support in its voter education campaign by participating in the poll body's video materials.

“We have to admit that the entertainment people can draw attention and that is what we need to draw the attention of our voters,” said Ferrer.

But the commissioner also reiterated that Comelec does not have enough funds to pay the talent fees of those who would want to get involved.

“We don't have the necessary funding for that so it should be in a voluntary basis. But we cannot just accept the services of any actor or actress who are very much identified with the candidates because that way we are removing any suspicion that we are supporting any of the candidates,” Ferrer said, replying to the possibility of Kris Aquino helping out the commission.

The Comelec official said it will be biased if it will allow the younger sister of Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III to help out in its voter education initiatives.

“She is very much identified with her brother. If we will recruit her, people might say that we are in favor of her candidate and it will still depend on what field she can help us in,” Ferrer said.

Comelec will be beefing up its voter education efforts in the coming weeks through advertisements in television, radio and cinemas.

This, amid survey results pointing out that most Filipinos know little or nothing at all about the new automation system to implemented for the first time in Philippine elections.

Palace on celebrity endorsers

In a related development, Malacañang will not join the call for celebrities and media practitioners endorsing political candidates to resign or take a leave, saying such decision is a personal matter.

Poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) earlier appealed to celebrities supporting candidates for the May elections to either go on leave in accordance the Fair Elections Act.

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.”

The Comelec at first supported this call, but later reversed its decision, saying it will leave the discretion to the company/network and personality involved.

Comelec ruled that celebrity endorsers are not anymore required to go on leave as long as they are not using their show’s airtime to endorse candidates.

Using airtime for promotion entails election offense of imprisonment of one to six years and deprivation of right to vote.

In Malacañang on Friday, Deputy presidential spokesperson Charito Planas said it is up for the celebrities and mediamen campaigning for a candidate to resign should they feel the need to do so.

“That’s their personal decision,” she said, adding that this matter is not an issue to the Malacañang as long as it follows the law.

Planas said they go with the decision of the Comelec and other concerned agencies making a ruling on the matter. “We should obey the law. We just need to impose the law.”

Liberal Party presidential candidate Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Nacionalista Party bet Manuel “Manny” Villar are two of the candidates who have tapped numerous celebrities to help them in their campaign.

This ruling of the Comelec has gained various opinions from politicians.

Some were troubled since celebrities have been helping them boost their surveys while some welcomed the decision as it leveled the playing field for every political candidate. (Kathrina Alvarez/Jill Beltran/Sunnex)