MANILA, Philippines – Six partylist groups and two senatorial candidates have so far been notified by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) regarding election propaganda posted in prohibited areas, a Comelec official said Friday.
Director Esmeralda Amora-Ladra of the Comelec Law Department identified the senatorial candidates as Akbayan partylist Representative Risa Hontiveros and former Puerto Princesa, Palawan mayor Edward Hagedorn.
Hontiveros’ violation was recorded in Dumaguete City while Hagedorn’s was along Osmena Highway in Manila, she said.
The partylist groups are Pwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA), Bayan Hayaan Yumabong (Buhay) Partylist, 1 Joint Alliance of Marginalized Group, Inc (1JAMg), Piston Land Transportation Coalition Inc. (Piston), Kabataan Partylist, and LPG Marketers Association Inc.
She said that these notifications by the Comelec Education and Information Department were based on the reports by concerned citizens sent through social media.
The notices were received on February 19 and 20 through personal service. Ladra said they would be required to take down their illegal election propaganda within three days or face charges of violating campaign rules.
“If they don’t remove it within three days, we will remove it, but at their expense, and then we will be filing cases against them,” Ladra told reporters in a press conference.
She also reminded candidates that their registration may be cancelled in addition to being charged with the election offense
“We can also file for the cancellation of their registration if they will be insistent on putting up these materials in illegal locations,” she said. “One of the grounds for cancellation of their registration is noncompliance of election laws.”
When asked whether they would accept the excuse of candidates who say that the posters in illegal areas were placed by their rivals, Ladra said, “hindi na.”
“With the three day notice that we issue, they could ensure that none of their campaign materials are placed in prohibited places even if they say they did not put it there,” she said.
Each election propaganda that will be placed in a prohibited area will constitute one election offense, Ladra said. This means that if candidates, after being notified by the Comelec, remove their posters only to put them up in another prohibited area, they can be given another notice.
She said that they specifically included the phrase “and in all other areas” in their notice so that candidates would not repeat the offense in other locations.
“As long as they continue to put up posters in illegal places, complaints or reports will come, and we will be entertaining [each],” she said.
“I have to remind again, we have already started giving notices, please do not wait for us to give [more] notices. Under the law [candidates] should be presumed to have knowledge of election rules,” Ladra said.
She also called on the voters to be aware of which candidates were repeatedly disobeying the campaign rules because this would reflect on their candidacy.
“To the voters, ngayon palang pagisipan na ninyo, sino ba yang mga pasaway diyan, especially sa local, we already have experience in the past na may mga campaign materials sa mga kahoy at poste,” she said.
“These candidates should not wait for us to notify them, [they] should always be concerned with where their materials are posted,” Ladra said.