Worried that unregulated alcohol consumption during the election period may not only spawn violence but also discourage an “intelligent discussion” of the issues, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has formally asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to extend the liquor ban from two to 45 days.
But two Comelec officials expressed reservations on the proposal, noting that a ban that long could face legal hurdles and draw complaints from businesses that make or sell alcoholic drinks.
In a petition filed in the election body on Tuesday, MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino said the two-day liquor ban imposed under the omnibus election code may not be enough to address “the evils and problems” caused by drinking binges especially during the election period.
Tolentino noted that the election period, which runs from Jan. 13 to June 12, also coincides with the fiesta season.
“The unfettered consumption of alcoholic beverages nationwide especially during this period does not aid intelligent discussion of election issues by our citizens,” he said, adding:
“With the election fever and the house-to-house campaigning of candidates (in full swing), consumption of alcoholic drinks is common. This situation does not augur well in areas where (there are) heated rivalries.”
The MMDA chairman, who previously served as Tagaytay City mayor for a decade, suggested that the liquor ban be implemented for a longer period, just like the five-month gun ban.
“Given the deleterious and far-reaching effects of alcohol, it stands to reason that the liquor ban should be in effect for a longer period,” he said.
But a day before the MMDA filed its petition at the Comelec headquarters in Intramuros, Manila, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. expressed reservations on the proposal, saying a 45-day ban may be “too long.”
“We’ll be going up against (alcohol) manufacturers and sellers. That won’t sit well with big companies,” said Brillantes told reporters on Monday.
Brillantes said Comelec might just consider adding a day to the regular two-day liquor ban, which starts on the eve of election day. The midterm elections fall on May 13, a Monday.
“But we will have to check the legality whether we can really add one day,” he added.
In an interview Tuesday following an en banc meeting, Comelec Commissioner Armando Velasco said the poll body, after an informal discussion of the MMDA proposal, appeared not too keen on approving it.
“On my part, maybe three days is possible,” Velasco said. “Our concentration is for the purposes of voting.”
“We also have to consider the commercial value of the liquor ban,” he said, echoing Brillantes’ view. “There will certainly be businesses that will be affected.”
In an interview Tuesday, Tolentino elaborated on his rationale for an extended ban, saying that some politicians especially in the provinces are known to use alcohol to engage in a form of “vote buying.”
“In Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Laguna, the campaign is through drinking … It is a reality that during elections, campaigners provide the voters liquor. The [proposed extension of the] liquor ban is related to MMDA’s mandate, to our efforts to reduce fatal accidents.”
The MMDA has also asked the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, a poll monitoring group headed by Amb. Henrietta de Villa, to support its proposal.—With a report from Jodee Agoncillo