THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) launched last week its Oplan Baklas, a drive to rid Cebu of illegal campaign materials of candidates to next month’s elections.
How far will the effects of the operation reach? Scraping off these paper posters from public places only leave walls looking dirtier than when the pasted material covered dirt and graffiti. The remains were covered with white paint but there were some left in tatters. There is little effect of this cleanup campaign.
What the poll body has to do to make Oplan Baklas more than token action is to take punitive steps. Call in these candidates and let them explain why they should not be penalized.
What happened during the Oplan Baklas launch was superficial, which may be taken as insincerity of the Comelec.
In Cebu City, the removal of campaign materials found outside the designated common poster areas was led by acting South District Election Officer Marchel Sarno and North District Election Officer Chauncey Boholst. The torn posters filled four trucks in the south district and three trucks in the north district. That’s a lot of garbage.
Sarno said the posters removed were those of candidates of the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan led by Mayor Tomas Osmeña, Councilor Mary Ann de los Santos and South District Rep. Bebot Abellanosa; and candidates of Barug-PDP-Laban led by Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, his running mate former Mayor Michael Rama, south district congressional candidate Councilor Joy Pesquera and north district congressional candidate Richard Yap. Osmeña and Labella are seeking the Cebu City mayoralty post.
Other removed campaign materials belonged to party-list and senatorial candidates Mar Roxas, JV Ejercito, Ronald dela Rosa, Bong Go, Imee Marcos, Bong Revilla and Serge Osmeña, among others.
“It appears all candidates have posters outside the common poster areas,” Sarno said. This is why, Sarno said, the Comelec cannot implement provisions of Republic Act 9006, the Fair Elections Act, without public support. Those who see a violation can file a case with the Comelec. But, he said, not one complaint has been made.
Proving the case in court would also be difficult because candidates can pass on the blame to supporters who committed the illegal act without their knowledge.
Comelec Resolution 10488 prohibits anyone “to post or display or exhibit any election campaign or propaganda material outside of common poster areas, in public places, or in private properties without the consent of the owner.”
Violators may be imprisoned for one to six years and disqualified from holding public office.
More meaningful action must be taken against violators because the law is there to ensure equal opportunity.
Give notices to candidates and call them in to explain why they should not be penalized. It may not result in court action, but at least the candidate is made aware, and the public, too, on who not to vote.