Comelec, PACC urge gov't agencies to remain impartial in elections

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 14) — The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and the anti-corruption commission have joined forces to monitor and punish government agencies who engage in partisan political activity in the upcoming elections.

In a joint press conference Thursday, COMELEC spokesman James Jimenez and Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission Chair (PACC) Dante Jimenez reiterated the prohibitions for Civil Service members  as preparations for the May 13 midterm polls continue.                                                                                                                                          asaspreparatioas

"They can express their own preference but they cannot impose that preference on others," the COMELEC spokesman said. 

He explained that government officials are not allowed to coerce their subordinates and colleagues into supporting their preferred candidate. Likewise, agencies are prohibited from using public funds and resources in endorsing candidates. 

James Jimenez said government agencies are not allowed to utilize resources such as their personnel to aid political campaigns. For example, they cannot deploy their employees to put up streamers or banners or use official vehicles for parades, he cited. 

Those who violate these rules and engage in partisan political activity will be subject to one up to six years of imprisonment and may be disqualified from holding public office.

James Jimenez clarified that the rules against partisan political activity among civil servants have been in effect since the start of the election period which was on January 13. However, they issued the warning after the start of the campaign period, after the official candidates have been named. 

"Prior to the start of the campaign period rules do not apply to potential candidates, but the prohibition still technically applies to civil servants… For all practical purposes, you can see the prohibition really kick in at the start of the campaign period because that is the only time you can technically be partisan for any particular candidate," the COMELEC official explained. 

"Now that those people are officially candidates that thing has to be stopped," he added. 

Dante Jimenez appealed to the public to report and present evidence of partisan political activity to authorities so the appropriate sanctions can be issued against them.

"Ang aking appeal sa tao lahat ng mga i-document ninyo (My appeal to the people is to document all violations because) kasi we will make them accountable," he said. 

James Jimenez said they will take note of the reports of violations, however they still have to go through the validation process before appropriate action is taken against them. Due process still has to be followed and the public should not expect the candidates to be disqualified immediately after they report their violation, he said. 

"Wag nating i-expect maging instant ang resulta nito (Let's not expect the results will be instant) just to be very clear. We will move as fast as we can," the COMELEC official said. 

The PACC Chair issued a warning against violating candidates and urged the public to be vigilant. He assured that they will fulfill their mandate and will show no mercy who will not comply with campaign rules. 

"Wala kaming sasantuhin, 'yan ang sinabi ng Presidente sa amin kaya warning na 'to to all (We will show no mercy, that is what the President said so take this as a warning). I don't want to name names…Gives us proof and we will give results," Dante Jimenez said