MANILA -- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) reminded national and local candidates Friday that campaigning is strictly prohibited during the observance of the Holy Week.

Comelec Resolution 8758 implementing the Fair Elections Practices Act stated: “It is unlawful for any person, whether a voter or a candidate, or for any political party, or association of persons to engage on election campaign or partisan political activity on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, on the eve of elections and on election day.”

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Maundy Thursday will fall on April 1, and Good Friday on April 2.

The reminder came as local candidates from several areas in the country launched their campaigns Friday, March 26.

“The campaign period for local positions has started. This means we now have jurisdiction over local candidates and that they are now officially covered with existing campaign rules and regulations,” said Comelec spokesman James Jimenez.

He urged candidates to turn off their loudspeakers and their campaign jingles during the dates “in deference to the Holy Week.”

“Give yourselves a break and make use of the Holy Week to reflect and ponder on all the promises you dished out during the campaign period and on how you intend to bring them to fruition should you get elected in May,” he added.

Violating the campaign rules might lead to an election offense.

The Comelec official also advised candidates to use the Holy Week break “to reflect on the nature of the job you are seeking, public service above all.”

The poll body told local candidates that they have three days to remove their previously posted campaign materials, such as greetings for Valentine’s Day, fiesta celebrations, and graduation day.

The Comelec Law Department earlier sent notices to national candidates who have either placed their materials in non-common poster areas, or have posted oversized posters and/or banners.

Report campaign expenses

Aside from the Holy Week observance and rules on campaign posters and banners, the local candidates are also told, this time by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), to report their campaign expenses before the first week of April.

"We will just give them the chance up to first week of April para ma declare ang expenses nila. Dapat kasi on their expenses, they will withhold a five-percent tax on their supplies and other expenses," BIR East District officer Abilia Bentulan said in an interview Friday.

Bentulan said they will be sending letters to all local candidates.

"We already have the list from the Comelec (Commission on Elections) and they should act on our letter kasi kung hindi nila sundin, we will be imposing penalties," Bentulan said, adding that the Comelec will furnish them with a copy of the candidate's expenses after the election.

She said they will publish the names of the candidates who have failed to pay taxes, adding that even the national candidates are notified to pay at their respective district offices.

No threat, so far

The Armed Forces, meanwhile, said Friday that there is no specific threat of bombings that may be waged by radical Muslim groups, including the Abu Sayyaf, to sabotage, or disrupt the observance of the Holy Week.

Interviewed in Camp Aguinaldo, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said the military expects a peaceful Holy Week celebration.

But Burgos was quick to add that security forces will be on alert during the period.

During the Holy Week in 2005, military intelligence agents arrested a Muslim convert, Dawud Santos, for allegedly plotting to bomb a nightspot in Manila.

The agents at that time seized a large cache of explosives allegedly to be used for the attack.

Santos, who was later released on bail, is a leader of the Rajah Solaiman Movement, which has close linkages with the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.

“Honestly, we have not received, none yet and hopefully there will be none,” said Burgos, when asked if the military has information of any planned bombings by radical Muslim groups. (Kathrina Alvarez/VR/With RHM of Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)