Comelec asks Go to take down ‘Malasakit’ posters
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has asked the Department of Health (DOH) to take down all Malasakit Center posters bearing the name and picture of senatorial candidate Bong Go displayed in government-run hospitals.
Election Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said the Comelec had also requested Go, a former aide to President Rodrigo Duterte, to remove the posters immediately, saying it had sent him notices “like all the other candidates.”
Malasakit Center is a program of the Duterte administration to establish one-stop shops in hospitals to hasten the delivery of free medical services to the poor.
Under the program, indigent patients are assisted in availing themselves of medical services and financial assistance provided by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the DOH.
The President has repeatedly credited Go as the one who conceptualized the Malasakit Centers while the candidate’s picture is often used in its promotional posters.
In an interview, Guanzon explained the ban on propaganda materials in government-owned and -controlled establishments.
“No posters or images of candidates on government buildings,” she said.
Sought for comment, Go told his supporters not to produce posters and streamers bearing his picture and name.
“I’ve repeatedly said this, ‘Please remove my face and name from posters and tarps. Please don’t put those up and just use the money for the needy,’” he said.
He reminded government employees to “stay neutral” as the May 2019 elections draw closer.
“That’s the President’s order. Just keep in your heart whoever you think should serve Filipinos,” he said.
He told his supporters that his campaign would follow election laws.
Election watchdog Kontra Daya said the Comelec’s move was a welcome development.
“Hopefully, this would be the start of an investigation whether or not government funds and resources are being used in Go’s senatorial campaign,” said Kontra Daya convener Danilo Arao.
The group earlier called on the Comelec to investigate Go for probable use of government funds and resources in his campaign.
“Government officials supporting Go’s candidacy are expected to deny that government funds and resources had been or are being used. Which is why the Comelec should intervene by investigating how official activities funded by taxpayers are being maximized by candidates like Go,” it said in a previous statement.
Kontra Daya cited an instance when T-shirts bearing the image of Go were distributed at the 1st National Assembly of the Liga ng mga Barangay sa Pilipinas on Feb. 25.
The Omnibus Election Code prohibits the use of public funds, equipment, facilities that are owned or controlled by the government for an election campaign or any partisan political activity. A violation can be considered an election offense.
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