More than a month of the national electoral campaign has passed—and the words that come to mind are: boring, pretentious, and, surprising, clean. Except for some TV ads and the usual sorties, nothing much was heard or seen of the campaigns. Unsurprisingly, what became the stuff of news were the feeble attempts at issue positioning and debates, mudslinging, the fluctuating surveys, and the intramurals within and among senatorial and party-list candidates.
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The more surprising development is the huge decline in posters and tarpaulins in public places outside of designated areas by the Commission on Elections. Related to this is the rising consciousness of the voting public on issues of electoral reform such as political dynasties, automation of the electoral system, illegal pre-campaigning, campaign finance.
The “anti-epal” campaign stands out as a breakthrough, discouraging many of the candidates from putting their faces and names on billboards and project signage. It also led to adoption by some government agencies and local governments and to more public recognition for a principal campaigner, Juana Change.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) issued Resolution No. 9615 to strictly enforce the elections laws on allowable poster sizes, type of campaign materials and places to post campaign posters. Several senatorial candidates and party-list groups had already been cited for violations and some of them are already undergoing legal investigation by the Comelec. There is considerable public support for the election body on this.
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Of course, it remains to be seen if the Comelec, with the help of concerned agencies and civil society organizations, can maintain this stance into the local election campaigns due to start next month. These local campaigns are expected to produce the largest number of violations of the campaign poster regulations; these will tax to the limit the political will shown so far by the election body.
The changes in the national campaign behavior, both of candidates and the voting public, reflect the increasing changes in the voter behavior. That is, from one of relying on the tried and tested norms of traditional politics of money, popularity, and political alliances to one that is more open to electoral and political reforms, issues and positions, and platforms and programs.
However, these changes are still in transition and a large part, if not still the majority, are still vulnerable to the siren song of traditional campaigning. However, change is already written on the wall.