MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang advised yesterday all local and national candidates in the coming May elections to strictly abide by election laws to ensure clean, fair and honest elections.
President Duterte, however, is exempted from the ban on campaigning, his spokesman and chief legal adviser Salvador Panelo reiterated yesterday as the 90-day campaign period kicked off.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman James Jimenez confirmed this, telling The Chiefs last night on One News / Cignal TV that political officials including the President are allowed to engage in partisan activities during elections.
What is prohibited, Jimenez told The Chiefs, is the use of government resources for campaigning. But he admitted that there are gray areas in this rule.
“Every government, every administration – always appeals to all the candidates to strictly observe the elections laws… We have to have clean, honest, fair, credible elections,” Panelo said.
Panelo said the law exempts Duterte from the provision against campaigning for candidates.
Government officials could be held liable under election laws if found to be campaigning or supporting any candidate.
“The President even asked – called upon the members of the Cabinet to strictly follow the rules on the prohibition on government employees, officials not to campaign for or against any political candidate, exempting himself, because the provision says he is exempted from it,” Panelo added.
Panelo referred to the provisions of the Omnibus Election Code, particularly Article 22 section 2 (i) on the intervention of public officers and employees.
The law provides: “Any officer or employee in the civil service, except those holding political offices; any officer, employee, or member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, or any police force, special forces, home defense forces, barangay self-defense units and all paramilitary units that now exist or which may thereafter be organized who, directly or indirectly, intervenes in any election campaign or engages in an partisan political activity, except to vote or preserve public order, if he is a peace officer.”
He said that Duterte will not use government resources in endorsing his bets. “But, let me just emphasize… it will be just verbal endorsement,” Panelo said.
Panelo refused to say whether he sees a landslide victory for presidential allies running under the administration slate.
No support from church groups
Duterte said he would not be soliciting votes from religious groups.
“I don’t think… wala eh… hindi naman, the President never asks help from any specific religion. What he does is he expresses himself and he tells us why he is doing this and that,” he said.
Duterte is also known to be close to Pastor Apollo Quiboloy.
Asked if the midterm elections can be seen as a referendum on his presidency, Panelo said that any opposition candidate who would win should cooperate with the administration.
“I think the President will agree with me that… even the winning of an opposition candidate doesn’t mean a repudiation of the administration. It only means that when opposition candidates win, it is an expression of the electorate telling them that we’re putting you there to cooperate with this administration because we believe in this presidency and not for you to destabilize it,” he said.
The Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Philippine Military Academy also reminded government officials and employees running in the midterm polls this May to adhere to election laws, rules and regulations.
The CSC also issued a reminder to government agencies that transferring, promoting and hiring of new employees during the election period are banned.
CSC chair Alicia dela Rosa-Bala said the ban is in effect from Jan. 13 to June 12 as mandated by Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Bala also stressed that from March 29 until May 12, government agencies are prohibited from appointing or hiring new employees, creating new positions; promoting or giving of salary increases, remuneration or privileges.
She said any government official who promotes, or gives any increase of salary or remuneration or privilege to any government official or employee, including those in government-owned or controlled corporations, may be considered guilty of an election offense.
The CSC further reminded government agencies to observe Section 112 of the Omnibus Rules on Appointments and Other Human Resource Actions which prohibits all appointments after an election until June 30 by outgoing elective officials, unless the requirements for an exemption to such rule are met.
Adopted class members of the PMA seeking elective posts and who are attending the academy’s yearly alumni homecoming this weekend will not be allowed to engage in political activities.
AFP chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. said this on the sidelines of a turnover of command ceremony yesterday as most of the PMA’s adopted members have been regularly attending the academy’s yearly homecoming in Baguio City.
Madrigal said the no campaign policy inside the PMA this weekend is in line with the AFP’s non-partisan stand in the elections.
PMA Alumni Association Inc. (PMAAAI) chair and retired Army chief Jaime delos Santos said that adopted class members, like in past homecoming activities, are not allowed to be part of the traditional pass and review of PMA alumni at Borromeo Field.
“Inside PMA camp, regulations are to be followed. I think PMA officials led by its superintendent would never allow any political tarpaulins or political gimmicks inside,” Delos Santos said.
Sen. Richard Gordon called on voters to be discerning in choosing the candidates they will elect on May 13, saying they should go beyond political gimmickry and advertisements and focus on abilities, qualifications and proven track record, among others.
Gordon said senators must have the ability to “engage in debates and discourses, particularly those on proposed measures to ensure that they are well crafted.”
Gordon, who has long been pushing for the leveling of the political playing field by reducing overspending and consequently reducing the influence of financial resources on the outcome of elections, filed Senate Bill 1995 or the “Campaign Reforms Act of 2018” that seeks to limit candidates’ campaign expenses and mandates the Comelec to organize televised town-hall style debates that would be covered by different media entities.
“Campaign has become very expensive because of the prohibitive prices of TV and radio ads, which discourage candidates who are well-qualified but do not have sufficient financial resources,” Gordon said.
Let ACT members serve
Meanwhile, members of the Alliance of Concerns of Teachers (ACT) should be allowed to serve in the upcoming midterm elections like in previous polls, the group told the Comelec.
The organization yesterday asked the poll body to dismiss a petition filed by a supposed member of a party-list group seeking the disqualification of ACT teacher-members from serving as board of election inspectors.
ACT secretary-general Raymond Basilio said the complaint – filed by a certain Mohammad Omar Albano Fajardo from Tao Muna party-list – is tainted with malice and devoid of factual and legal basis.
Basilio stressed that ACT is different from ACT Teachers party-list group, which currently holds two seats in Congress.
Basilio said members of the alliance include ACT unions of public school teachers duly registered with the Department of Labor and Employment and the CSC in 15 out of 17 regions in the country. – With Michael Punongbayan, Jaime Laude, Janvic Mateo, Cecille Suerte Felipe