THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Thursday they will be strictly enforcing campaign guidelines for the May 2010 polls.

A recent report of Pera at Pulitika (Money and Politics), a group monitoring campaign spending of 2010 candidates, showed that presidential bets Manuel “Manny” Villar, Joseph “Erap” Estrada, and Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III are running out of allowable television airtime.

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The group said Nacionalista Party standard bearer Villar only has 40.5 minutes left of airtime in each of major television networks GMA 7 and ABS-CBN.

Lineral Party standard bearer Aquino has 44 minutes left for ABS-CBN and 54 minutes for GMA 7. Estrada for Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, meanwhile has 42.5 for ABS-CBN and 55 for GMA network.

On contrary, Lakas-Kampi-CMD bet Gilbert Teodoro has not consumed a single minute of his allowable airtime.

Campaign period started last February 9 and will run up to May 8.

The commission, based on the campaign guidelines they issued last February, has allowed candidates 120 minutes of television airtime per station.

As part of its monitoring duties, the Comelec has asked television networks to submit reports on the advertisements of 2010 candidates.

All broadcast media outfits must submit certified true copies of broadcast logs of political ads on March 9, April 9, May 8, and May 14.

“Reports would be submitted by the different networks to the Commission on Elections so there's a way to monitor their ads aired on TV. They should follow the resolution and the law. We already made it 120 minutes per station,” noted Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal.

Akap Bata’s ad

Also, Akap Bata party-list's commercial is being questioned as to whether or not it supports Villar.

The party-list organization's advertisement displays a similar video and jingle to that of Villar's “Dagat ng Basura” advertisement.

Malou Mangahas, executive director of the Philippine Center of Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), said in a television interview that this may be one example used by candidates so they would not reach the allowed airtime.

“Maaring magpalusot sila and use political parties and party-list groups to avoid reaching the limit,” she said.

But Akap Bata, a group fighting for children's rights, denied that their ad was meant to support the candidacy of Villar.

Party-list groups are likewise allowed 120 minutes of television airtime.

Larrazabal said airtime of advertisements would be quite difficult to monitor especially when there are multiple candidates in the ad. “There might be an ad where three or four candidates are included in the ad.”

The Comelec official assured that the en banc will resolve this issue at the soonest possible time.

Cluttered with poll materials

In a related development, the poll body has identified seven areas in Luzon that are cluttered with different election paraphernalia from candidates running in the May 2010 polls.

The education and information department of the Comelec found Caloocan, Marikina, Bulacan, Navotas, Quezon City, Manila, and Las Pinas to be the most cluttered cities from poll materials.

Under the campaign guidelines issued by the commission, a three-man task force is assigned to tear down and remove illegal election materials outside common poster areas.

The task force will be composed of the election officer (EO) as chairman, the Station Commander of the Philippine National Police (PNP) as vice chairman, and a third member belonging to any of the deputized agencies of the Commission.

“The election officers are required and mandated to cleanse the cities where there is unauthorized election paraphernalia. They have to inform the candidates that these election paraphernalia have to be taken down or if not, we are authorized to take it down,” said Larrazabal.

The election officer is tasked to issue a notice to candidates who will be caught campaigning illegally. After three days, the candidate and his camp should have already removed the illegal campaign material.

Candidates may post their campaign materials in common poster areas or in private residences only.

“However, if you put in it private residences, it would still have to conform to the size prescribed by law,” Larrazabal reminded.

Confusion not possible

The Comelec official furthered that confusion on the proper poster areas is not possible since candidates and their respective teams can easily go to the Comelec office in their area to verify.

Candidates were also given a chance to suggest poster areas before the list of common poster areas were released by municipalities.

“There was ample opportunity for candidates to make suggestions,” said Larrazabal.

The commission is at the same time studying whether or not they should charge the candidates a certain amount of money per poster taken down by its task force.

Larrazabal said they have already made this suggestion in the previous elections.

“That's something were looking at but this is also a reminder and a warning to election officers that they have to enforce the resolution and the fair elections act,” said the poll commissioner.

Comelec has earlier asked the public to report any unlawful campaign paraphernalia posted in their area.

Violators may face an election offense punishable with imprisonment of not less than one year but no more than six years.

Unlawful campaign materials may be reported to the following hotline numbers: 525-9302, 525-9297, 525-9345, 525-9296, 525-9335, 525-9294, 527-5575 and 527-0821.

The commission earlier this week warned presidential bets Senator Richard Gordon and Bro. Eddie Villanueva and vice presidentiable candidate Bayani Fernando on their oversized billboards posted in major thoroughfares in Luzon. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)