Election watchdog Kontra-Daya called on the Commission on Elections to exercise its authority and resort to a “shame campaign” directed at candidates who have been campaigning even if not allowed to do so until February 2022.
Kontra-Daya convenor Danilo Arao expressed his group’s disgust on political aspirants’ use of various gimmicks to woo voters’ support months ahead of the official campaign period for the 2022 elections. He urged the Comelec to at least call out violators, even if there are no grounds for disqualification according to the current rules, as they are making a mockery of the process.
Arao said Comelec can issue a press release or statement mentioning the politician or his political party’s name, or issuing summons to the involved parties and require their explanation.
A communication professor at the University of the Philippines, Arao said candidates are using government programs to promote their candidacies, such as attending vaccination drives. There are also instances when government resources are being used, such as printing tarpaulins of certain politicians and using government vehicles to transport people or items, or using public venues.
He stressed it is not appropriate for the Comelec to maintain its conservative stance by mainly looking at the Omnibus Election Code provisions regarding the start of campaign period since many candidates are already skirting those limitations by using different gimmicks.
Instances of cash aid being distributed, even if the act itself cannot yet be classified as “vote buying” since the campaign period has not begun, should be looked into based on the “intent” of the politicians giving cash away.
Even candidates who use social media to host games or programs should be reprimanded for “premature campaigning,” Arao said.
He is also pushing for an amendment to the election code, saying those who filed a certificate of candidacy must be immediately be classified by the Comelec as “candidates,” contrary to the 2009 Supreme Court decision that considers an individual who files his COC a “candidate” only at the start of the campaign period.
The advocacy of Kontra-Daya resonates with most Filipinos who are tired of seeing politicos exploiting loopholes in election rules to gaining an unfair advantage. The problem is the country’s weak election rules can only be changed by the ones blatantly benefiting from the various dirty tricks it allows, exacerbated by a Comelec unwilling to challenge the status quo.
Will our elected legislators be willing to amend election rules to level the playing field and the Comelec be interested in finding determined and creative ways to make elections and the campaign period better for all Filipinos and not just politicians?*