Comelec braces up for start of local campaign period

WHILE everyone is expected to reflect on Black Saturday, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will be busy policing the start of the campaign period for local candidates for the May 13 polls.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said local campaign period starts on March 30 (Black Saturday) instead of March 29 (Good Friday).

The 45-day campaign period for local candidates actually starts on Good Friday but the poll body prohibits campaign activities on the said day.

"Let us be vigilant once the local campaign period starts. There we will see more troublesome candidates," said Brillantes in Filipino.

Expected to begin campaigning Saturday are those who will be vying for the 233 House of Representatives seats; 80 governors; 80 vice governors; 766 provincial board members; 143 city mayors; 143 city vice mayors; 1,598 city councilors; 1,491 municipal mayors; 1,491 municipal vice mayors; and 11,932 municipal councilors.

Also set to begin their campaigns are candidates for governor; vice governor; and 24 regional assemblymen in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm).

Comelec Law Department head Esmeralda Ladra said that first on their list are to check on unlawful propaganda materials posted by local candidates, especially those incumbents running for re-election, prior to the official start of the campaign period.

"Anything, any material that can be related to you (candidates), even if they are placed before the campaign period, if we find them, they can be used against your candidacy," said Ladra.

Section 25 of Comelec Resolution 9615 states that "All prohibited forms of election propaganda shall be immediately removed before the start of the campaign period." Non-removal of these illegal materials constitutes an election offense.

Considered by the poll body as prohibited forms of propaganda materials are names, images, logos, brands, insignias, initials, and "other forms of identifiable graphical representations placed by incumbent officials on any public structures or places."

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, for his part, added that government-owned vehicles should be spared from campaigning since they are considered as public structures.

"It is prohibited to involve government vehicles used by barangays or local government units for campaigning. This is particularly relevant in the local arena since many incumbents are running again. So they better make sure that their names are not on government vehicles," said Jimenez.

Section 7 of the Resolution 9615 states that "public places" include motor vehicles used as patrol cars, ambulances and other similar purposes owned by local government units, and government agencies that bear red license plates.

Violations of the resolution, which provides the rules and regulations of the Fair Elections Act, is considered an election offense, which carries a penalty of one to six years imprisonment, removal of right to vote, and disqualification from public office.

The campaign period for local candidates will run until May 11. (HDT/Sunnex)
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