The major streets of Cebu City are sporting a new look these days. Colored ribbons have been tied around electric posts and trees and on fences along main roads.

First there were yellow ribbons; then came the orange ones. At times the new ribbons were simply placed above those already there so orange and yellow ribbons ended up mixing together.

The only explanation for this new phenomenon is that election candidates or their supporters have found a way of announcing the Cebu visit of their bet without violating rules against the indiscriminate posting of banners or placards.

Let the colored ribbons speak for themselves or, in this case, for the candidates who have used the colors for their election campaigns. At least the trees get spared from the piercing of nails and staples because the ribbons are simply tied around the bark or the branches.

But Commission on Elections resolution no. 8758 on the rules and regulations implementing the Fair Election Practices Act does not include ribbons in the list of lawful election propaganda.

Section 8 states that lawful election propaganda shall include, among others:

1. pamphlets, leaflets, cards, decals, stickers or other written or printed materials the size of which does not exceed 8 ½” in width and 14” in length;

2. handwritten or printed letters urging voters to vote for or against any particular political party or candidate for public office;

3. posters made of cloth, paper, cardboard or any other material, whether framed or posted, with an area not exceeding two feet by three feet; and

4. all other forms of election propaganda not prohibited by the Omnibus Election Code or these rules.

The use of ribbons is a new way of promoting a candidate. For example, yellow is the campaign color of presidential candidate Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and orange stands for Manuel “Manny” Villar. Green is for administration candidate Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro Jr. but green ribbons have yet to find their way to Cebu City.

The election guidelines do not cover ribbons but there must be a way to regulate them, if not by the election body then by the local government at the least. There still are laws against vandalism and littering.

Vandalism, because the ribbons in effect deface public structures such as electric posts. Littering because, after the candidate’s visit, no one takes the effort to remove the ribbons. They leave them there to rot and fall off the trees to clog the drainage systems. They wait for children to risk life and limb to climb the trees to get the ribbons and play with them by the road side. Orange ribbons tend to look dark brown after several days, and yellow ribbons begin to look orange.

Innovation is when something new is introduced to improve a thing or a process. The ribbons campaign is not an innovation but a clumsy excuse to go around the regulations on election propaganda.

(ninicab@sunstar.com.ph)