Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. on Monday expressed surprise the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) was removing illegally placed campaign materials from public infrastructure throughout the country—or at least trying to.
The Inquirer contacted Brillantes by phone Monday morning to ask about the DPWH campaign against posters, tarpaulins and other propaganda materials posted outside Commission on Elections-designated common areas.
An Inquirer story Monday dwelt on the DPWH drive to remove campaign posters, streamers and other propaganda materials from public infrastructure like national roads, bridges and buildings nationwide, and its difficulty in finding success.
DPWH Region IV Director Huilio Belleza had expressed concern for the safety of public works personnel who remove the offending campaign materials.
“They could get killed by the politicians or their followers,” he had said.
Call for joint teams
He also called for joint Comelec, DPWH and Philippine National Police teams to undertake the removal of the propaganda materials.
Reacting to the story, Brillantes said the DPWH “can’t just remove campaign materials.”
He said DPWH field personnel were “not deputized, not authorized” by the Comelec to take down offending materials.
“Why will we deputize them?” he said.
He had apparently forgotten about two Comelec resolutions—9598 and 9615—which mandate a ban on illegally posted campaign materials.
The resolutions, issued on Dec. 21, 2012, and Jan. 13, 2013, respectively, were signed by Brillantes and Commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Lucenito Tagle, Armando Velasco, Elias Yusoph, Christian Robert Lim and Grace Padaca.
The Inquirer obtained copies of the resolutions from the DPWH and Comelec public information offices.
Under Resolution No. 9598, the Comelec deputized over a dozen government agencies, including the DPWH, “in connection with the conduct of the May 13, 2013, national and local elections.”
It says “the DPWH and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) shall assist the commission in removing and tearing down all unlawful election materials and perform such other duties and functions as the commission may prescribe from time to time.”
It also says “the DPWH, as well as the MMDA, shall provide facilities and/or equipment necessary for the tearing down of illegal propaganda materials.”
Create task forces
On the other hand, Section 24 of Resolution No. 9615 calls for the “creation of task forces to tear down and remove unlawful election materials.”
The task forces—each composed of a Comelec officer as chair, a PNP station commander as vice chair and a third member from a deputized government agency like the DPWH—are tasked with “tearing down and removing campaign propaganda materials posted in public places outside the common poster areas, and to monitor and watch for persons posting or distributing unlawful election paraphernalia and to arrest persons caught in the act.”
Needed as evidence
Brillantes said DPWH personnel could only “pinpoint to us which ones are not posted in Comelec-designated areas… If you’re referring to campaign posters and streamers, we need them as evidence (of violation of the ban on campaign materials posted outside designated areas).”
Brillantes said “there’s a procedure. We give (erring candidates and their supporters) a three-day written notice to remove their campaign materials.”
“If they don’t follow our directive, then we charge them,” he said.
But he said he would call up Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson to inquire about the DPWH drive against illegal campaign materials.
Belleza had complained that as soon as DPWH personnel tore down offending campaign materials, candidates’ workers put them up again the next day.