Premature campaigning 'disgusting,' but allowed – Comelec

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"Kadiri siya, but hindi siya bawal. [It's disgusting, but it's not prohibited,]" Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez tells CNN Philippines' The Source.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 6) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) reiterated that nothing in the law prohibits politicians seeking elective posts in the May polls from airing political advertisements, guesting on shows and getting movies and TV drama episodes produced based on their lives ahead of the campaign period.

"Kadiri siya, but hindi siya bawal. [It's disgusting, but it's not prohibited,]" Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told CNN Philippines' The Source on Wednesday.

 

Jimenez explained that since current election laws only recognizes a person to be an official candidate once the campaign season kicks off, it created a window that allows politicians to have advertisements and TV show episodes ahead of the start of the campaign.

Even movies, documentaries, concerts or any type of performance that portrays a candidate's life — which are listed as prohibited forms of election propaganda — are allowed before the campaign period which starts on February 12, Jimenez said.

"With TV being as pervasive as it is, an influential medium as it is, you know, a lot of people are concerned that having this means of reaching out to the public available for some and not to others, it unbalances the playing field," he said.

 

A movie has been produced based on the life of former Philippine National Police chief Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, while ABS-CBN weekend drama program Maalaala Mo Kaya has produced an episode based on the life of the late Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, father of Senator Sonny Angara who is running for re-election.

Another episode of the same program is based on the life of former Special Assistant to the President Christopher "Bong" Go, who is also running for senator and also appeared on ABS-CBN's evening weekend talk show Gandang Gabi Vice.

"If your appearance on television is not news related, is not newsworthy and taken as whole, probably, only for the purpose of promoting you, then that is considered broadcast advertising," Jimenez said.

While recognizing that it skews the political playing field in favor of candidates with more money and connections, Jimenez admits that the poll body could not do anything about it without the law being amended.

The Comelec is pushing for election laws to be changed so that people will be considered as candidates the moment they file for candidacy before the poll body, which will make premature campaigning punishable.

Such a measure is pending on second reading in the Senate, but counterpart bills in the House have remained pending in the committee.

 

Congress goes on a three-month break for the midterm polls starting on Monday and would only have three weeks remaining to tackle pending bills when they return on May 20. Bills left untackled during this Congress would have to be filed again under the new Congress, regardless of its progress in the legislative mill.

Google, Facebook to report to Comelec

Due to the great role of social media in the 2016 elections, the Comelec has moved to regulate political advertisement using social media by requiring candidates to register their official website, blogs and social media accounts with the poll body for their expenditures to be monitored.

All other blogs and sites which primarily promotes candidates or political parties, even if they are not directly maintained or administered by candidates of their official campaign representatives will be considered as additional pages.

In addition to this, Jimenez said they are also requiring Internet giants Facebook and Google to report to them ad spending for the benefit of candidates.

"That will get everything, including posts from people who are not the candidates themselves," he said.

He added that social media posts with "heavy on the mentions" of a candidate may also be considered as an advertisement.

He said refusal to comply with the new rules on social media use or to circumvent it by not disclosing social media accounts would be an election offense.