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Electioneering: Did everyone understand the law?

With the smoke of the election campaign settling down, let’s take a look at how the law on electioneering has been understood or misunderstood.

A barangay in Valenzuela City is a good example.  At first glance, no one can miss their political color. There are campaign posters hanging at the barangay hall veranda and posted on a bulletin board. People are wearing the colors of a political party.  And someone is distributing campaign paraphernalia.

Those are actions that violate Article IX (B), Section 2, Paragraph 4 of the 1987 Constitution, which states that “No officer or employee in the civil service shall engage, directly or indirectly, in any electioneering or partisan political campaign.”

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Civil Service Commission (CSC) Assistant Commissioner for Legal Affairs Atty. Ariel Ronquillo defines electioneering as “committing acts that intend to solicit votes for a candidate or dissuade people from voting [for a certain candidate.]”

Ronquillo explained that the president, vice president, senators, congressmen, cabinet members, and all other elective officials, except those from barangays, are not covered by the prohibition.

“If you are holding a permanent appointment to regular plantilla position in a government agency, and you were not mentioned in the enumeration, then you are prohibited from engaging in any partisan political activity,” he said.

INFORMATION DISSEMINATION

Last March 29, CSC and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) came up with a joint circular order to “advise and remind all officers and employees of the Philippine Government, including any of its agencies, subdivisions, and instrumentalities, of the constitutional, statutory and other regulatory prohibitions against engaging in any electioneering or partisan political activities.”

Manila Bulletin sought an interview with the Valenzuela barangay captain but was declined, communicating to us only through his secretary. The barangay official’s secretary admitted that they are supporting the candidacy of the tandem, but they were not aware of the joint circular.

“We did not receive any, but the barangay captain knows about the law,” the secretary said.

But Ronquillo explained that they had done their part in disseminating the information.

“[The circular] was even published, and all our field officials were instructed to inform their constituents,” he said. “We are also appearing on media. We grant interviews in order to clarify to the people what electioneering is all about, who are covered, and what acts are not allowed.”

NO CASE REPORTED

Ronquillo said reported incidents of electioneering are “not that many” compared to other election violations they are receiving. In fact, they have not received any report of electioneering for the 2016 national elections.

“We cannot really say if there are really few electioneering cases or it’s just that only a few are being reported to us because no one is filing a complaint,” he said. “Maybe, if there are people active enough who will report cases to proper disciplining authority, then the figures might rise.”

PREPARING FOR ‘E-DAY’ – Public school teachers from Quezon City receive the official ballots from the Quezon City Treasurer’s Office  yesterday, in preparation for tomorrow’s  presidential elections, where over 50 million are qualified to vote.  (Mark Balmores)

PREPARING FOR ‘E-DAY’ – Public school teachers from Quezon City receive the official ballots from the Quezon City Treasurer’s Office yesterday, in preparation for tomorrow’s presidential elections, where over 50 million are qualified to vote. (Mark Balmores)

Ronquillo also informed the public to consult the agency in case they witness acts of electioneering.

“Engaging in partisan political activity can be both criminal and administrative. Administrative cases can be filed before CSC and we can monitor the progress of the case. If you are going to file a criminal case, it’s already under the jurisdiction of Comelec,” he said.

IRREGULAR CAMPAIGNING

High officials like presidential appointees or elective officials who engage in any form of irregular campaigning, he said, can be reported to the office of the Ombudsman.

“While they are allowed to campaign, they cannot use government resources for campaign. When you see them using vehicles of their agencies or local government unit, that’s illegal. You can charge them before the Office of the Ombudsman or Comelec,” he said.

IN SOCIAL MEDIA

Ronquillo clarified that employees can still share their opinion on issues and candidates, especially over social media, as freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Constitution. They, however, should be aware of the limitations.

“Social media is an effective medium of communication as you can reach as many people as you want,” he said. “But if you use it to campaign for or against a candidate, then that is already prohibited.”

The circular also states that “social media functions such as ‘liking,’ ‘commenting,’ ‘sharing,” re-posting, or following a candidate’s or party’s account,” are not prohibited as long as these are not used “to solicit support for or against a candidate or party during election period.”

“If you simply ‘liked’ something because you agreed with a candidate’s platforms or if you liked the candidate himself, say, because of his looks or the way he talks, that’s okay,” Ronquillo said. “Stating your preference or opinion on a particular issue is not considered electioneering, but if you add a statement directly soliciting a vote for a candidate, or if you tell people not to vote for a person, that is what we consider electioneering.”

 VOTING

 Civil Service employee Atty. Brando Noroña admitted that it is hard to avoid prohibitions, especially in social media, but it is important to abide by the law.

“No matter how much I wanted to share what’s on my mind, I am aware that there is a law that restricts and limits us, government employees, from doing this,” he said. “I don’t just campaign for someone.”

Ronquillo said the only participation of government employees and officials during election season is to vote.

“Let us leave politics to politicians, but let their fate be decided by us come election time,” he concluded. (With a report from Michaela Andrea M. Tangan)

  • sea eagle

    Maging matalino tayo sa ating pagboto,huwag maging BOBOtante para sa ating bansa.Para mawala ang mga magnanakaw sa govierno,kahirapan at kriminalidad.