By Sheila Crisostomo, February 28 2019; Philippine Star

Image Credit to Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — With the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other government agencies, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will spearhead today a “joint massive” operation to take down unlawful campaign materials in Metro Manila related to the May 13 midterm polls.

In a joint statement, the agencies said yesterday they have banded into a joint task force that will now work to make sure that campaign rules on candidates’ posters are strictly implemented.

“Pursuant to the provisions in the Fair Elections Act and Comelec Resolution No. 10488, the joint task force will scour major thoroughfares in Metro Manila to remove and tear down all prohibited forms of campaign propaganda materials,” they noted.

Based on the Comelec resolution, campaign posters should not be more than two by three feet and posted or displayed only in designated common poster areas or private property with the consent of the owner.

According to Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, election officers are mandated to designate common poster areas in their areas of jurisdiction and that the Comelec will be documenting those that they will take down for possible filing of appropriate charges against the candidates concerned.

Disqualify abusive pols

The PNP also said it will recommend before the Comelec the disqualification of candidates still using sirens, blinkers and other emergency devices in their campaign sorties.

PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said disqualification could be an option for candidates who refuse to heed his warning.

Albayalde on Tuesday directed the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) to strictly enforce the provisions of Presidential Decree 96 that prohibits the use of sirens, blinkers, horns and other gadgets to get through road traffic ahead of other motorists.

He issued the order after receiving text messages from irate civilians about politicians who are using sirens, blinkers and other devices on their convoy while traveling along EDSA and other major thoroughfares.

Under PD 96, sirens and blinkers can only be used on motor vehicles for official use of the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation, Land Transportation Office, Bureau of Fire Protection, other similar agencies and hospital ambulances.

Violation of the order will result in the revocation or cancellation of a vehicle’s certificate of registration.

HPG director Chief Supt. Roberto Fajardo, for his part, urged the public not to vote for candidates who cannot even follow a law prohibiting the use of sirens and blinkers.

The Department of Justice likewise reminded prosecutors to be neutral and non-partisan when they perform their duties in the elections.

In a Department Circular, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra warned prosecutors who will sit as members of the board of canvassers during the polls of the constitutional prohibition against partisan political activity and electioneering by non-political government officers and employees.

“Please be reminded that electioneering or engaging in partisan political activities by one holding a non-political office is a punishable offence. Any violation of the foregoing prohibitory rule shall be strictly and severely dealt with to the extent allowed by existing laws, rules and regulations,” read the order.

Prosecutors sit in BOCs in provinces, districts, cities and municipalities during the canvass of votes.

They are tasked to canvass votes received by each candidate and proclaim election winners.

In another development, there will be no changes in the honoraria that teachers will receive for serving in the upcoming midterm elections.

The memorandum of agreement signed by the Comelec and Department of Education (DepEd) showed that the benefits teachers would receive would be similar to those released in last year’s barangay elections.

In its agreement with Comelec, DepEd reiterated its commitment to support the conduct of the upcoming polls by providing the list of public school teachers who are willing to serve in the elections.

The DepEd earlier said it has allocated a budget for the establishment of help desks to provide support to those who will serve in the elections. –  With Emmanuel Tupas, Edu Punay, Janvic Mateo