Election exec asks for help

CEBU – An official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) revealed it is not getting any help from other government agencies during the election season.

Almost all government agencies are deputized by the Comelec during election season, yet no one has addressed problems like premature campaigning, said Comelec Central Visayas Director Temie Lambino.

The agency also does not get help from the politicians, who continue to break the laws. One of the most popular laws they break is on the filing of statement of campaign expenditure (Soce).

“Find me one Soce that is true,” Lambino told a group of reporters from the Visayas who visited his office last Wednesday.

“They just submit and that is because of circumstances. The law is archaic; it is a Jurassic law,” Lambino also said. He was referring to provisions under the Omnibus Election Code enacted in 1985 and Republic Act 7166, enacted in 1991.

Both laws provide limits on campaign expenditures.

In the case of the May 13, 2013 elections, those running for senator should only spend P5 for every registered voter.

In the case of local candidates, the rate is P3 per registered voter. This means that Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and Representative Tomas Osmeña, who are both running for mayor, should each spend only P1,643,043 for the 547,681 registered voters in the City. The candidates for vice mayors and each councilor also cannot spend more than that amount.

In the same manner, Representative Pablo John Garcia and lawyer Hilario Davide III will be limited to spending P5,456,517 for the 1,818,839 registered voters in the province. They are both running for governor of Cebu.

The same cap is given to the candidates for vice governor down to the members of the Provincial Board.

Cebu has a total of 2,509,520 voters, the biggest among the 80 provinces in the country.

Lambino said the limitations set by Comelec are no longer commensurate with the prevailing prices, as the law was enacted decades ago. But the law is still the law.

Former Comelec executive assistant to then chairman Christian Monsod (1992-1995), now the acting executive director of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente), lawyer Louie Tito Guia said that it doesn’t take much to get a candidate and platform known.

A black and white poster will suffice.

“Money is important. It’s the abuse of money or the misuse of money that’s the problem,” said Guia, referring to problems like vote-buying or selling, premature campaigning, the use of state resources for incumbent officials and weak enforcement of the laws.

There are about 50 laws pertaining to elections enacted since 1960. The laws grew in number mostly because of those related to the conduct or postponement of elections.

Premature campaigning is another problem that Comelec and other stakeholders have to deal with.

Guia said the posters already plastered on the walls are considered premature campaigning. But the problem is nobody is helping the Comelec.

First, it is so easy for the candidate to say he or she was not involved in premature campaigning because the supporters were the ones who posted the materials.

Another problem is the limitation of the law that designated a campaign period, which is February 12 to March 12 for national positions and March 29 to May 12 for local positions.

“The DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) should use the apparatus of the local government unit to help Comelec. All agencies are deputized by Comelec—DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways), PNP (Philippine National Police). Only the Office of the President is not deputized,” said Lambino.

He said that in his experience in other regions, the local government unit, particularly the General Services Office, does not want to do their part because of fear or because they support the incumbent mayor.

The PNP does not want to do its part for fear that the candidate whose posters are taken down would think that the agency is taking sides.

When Lambino was asked why he would not direct these agencies to do the cleanup as the lead agency during the elections, the director said there were no specific responsibilities penned by the Comelec en banc, which is also a limitation on his part in employing the help of the other agencies.

“If only politicians or candidates don’t go against the law, there would be nothing to enforce in the first place,” said Lambino. (JGA of Sun.Star Cebu)
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