By Mikha Flores, VERA Files
Kabataan and PISTON party-lists are in hot water for failing to remove illegal posters in Manila beyond the grace period given by the Commission on Elections.
Law Department Director Esmeralda Amora-Ladra said Comelec will file an election offense case against Kabataan and PISTON (Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide) for not removing posters along Taft Avenue and other parts of Manila and in Quezon City after the three-day period to take them down lapsed on Feb 23.
But Kabataan president and legal counsel James Mark Terry Ridon said they have removed the posters and slammed Comelec’s “double standards” in implementing the rules on campaigning. The poll body, he said, has been lenient on the Liberal Party’s candidates and on the Akbayan party-list.
Ladra said they went around Manila on Saturday to check the senatorial and party-list candidates’ compliance of Comelec’s order for them to remove campaign materials from places not designated as common poster areas. She said their notices were received by Kabataan and Piston on Feb 19 and the compliance deadline was Feb 22.
“After three days, pag hindi pa nila tatanggalin, nandoon na iyong presumption na sila talaga ang nagpalagay doon (After three days, if they still do not remove the posters, there is the presumption that they were the ones who put up the campaign materials,” Ladra said. An election offense carries a penalty of up to six years of imprisonment.
Atty Ridon said Kabataan partylist asked its members to remove campaign materials as soon as they received the notice from the Comelec. They have in fact sent Comelec a letter of compliance, with photos of areas where campaign posters have been removed, he added.
Resolution 9615, the implementing rules of RA 9006 or the Fair Election Act prohibits the posting of campaign materials outside common poster areas designated by local election officers. These common poster areas include plazas, markets, barangay centers or areas where posters may be readily seen.
Candidates and political parties can put up one common poster area for every 5,000 voters. The size should not exceed 12 by 16 feet or 192 square feet for political parties and 4 by 6 feet or 24 square feet for independent candidates.
Posting of campaign propaganda in public places is prohibited. Public places include electronic announcement boards, government and public utility vehicles, waiting sheds, sidewalks, electric posts, traffic signboards, schools, shrines, barangay halls, health centers and public terminals.
Comelec sent three notices to Kabataan party-list while PISTON received one notice.
Kabataan’s Ridon said: “During our rounds along E. Rodriguez Avenue in Quezon City and Recto Avenue and P. Noval Street in Manila, we have encountered several Akbayan posters. But do we hear Comelec saying anything about this? No.”
The party-lists are not being singled out in the Comelec campaign, according to Ladra who said they also sent a notice to the entire slate of Team P-noy, for posting materials illegally at Sun Valley Subdivision in Parañaque City.
Comelec has already sent 17 notices to 10 party-lists and 14 letters to 12 senatorial candidates. (Click here for the matrix).
Officials have said they would be strict in their enforcement of the rules on campaigning because they want to send a message.
"Actually, gusto namin may test case para alam nilang seryoso kami (Actually, we want a test case to let them know we’re serious). We really want to send a message that we're serious," election commissioner Christian Robert Lim said in January.
Comelec says netizens can report violations at www.mycomelec.tv. The poll body has at least 10 monitors working on shifts to address reports filed. The identity of those who will report will be kept confidential unless they are willing to pursue the case themselves. They can also call Comelec hotlines or tweet @COMELEC.
(VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for true.)