The election campaign period hasn’t officially started, so anything goes.
For example, there’s nothing wrong with senatorial candidates appearing in a TV soap at this time, although it is a clear “breach of delicadeza,” according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. has been asked by netizens on his Twitter account whether the poll body would “turn a blind eye” to the apparent campaigning of some candidates through a drama anthology series aired on television.
A couple of users of the popular microblogging site raised such a question to the Comelec following the airing of an episode of the life story of senatorial candidate Grace Poe-Llamanzares on ABS-CBN’s long-running drama anthology “Maalaala Mo Kaya” (MMK) on Saturday.
Llamanzares, the former chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, was depicted by actress Erich Gonzales in the hourlong drama program.
“A [senatorial candidate’s] life story now being featured on TV. What’s your take Chair Brillantes?” asked Twitter user @redenmat.
Another user, Edik Dolotina (@edikdolotina) said: “Will the Comelec turn a blind eye to ABS-CBN’s obvious campaigning through the MMK program?”
Brillantes answered on his Twitter account: “A paid political ad in the guise of a ‘biography’ is a clear breach of delicadeza but unfortunately, existing laws allow it.”
For the TV program’s next episode on Saturday, actor Gerald Anderson has been tapped to play the role of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who is running for reelection in the Team PNoy ticket.
In an interview with reporters on Monday, Brillantes said candidates being featured in “biographies” were not committing an illegal act in the absence of a law prohibiting premature campaigning.
“Nothing is illegal until the campaign period. So, all of these are still OK,” he said. “Everybody is taking advantage of the fact that the campaign period has not yet started.”
But Brillantes warned that the Comelec would go after candidates resorting to such propaganda once the campaign period begins on Feb. 12.
Candidates for national positions are not allowed to campaign until next Tuesday while the campaign period for local posts will start on March 30.
“What they are doing now is prohibited during the campaign period so they should be prepared because we will be strict in implementing campaign rules,” Brillantes said.
During the campaign period, the Comelec will limit the airtime of election propaganda to 120 minutes and 180 minutes for each candidate in all TV and radio networks, respectively.