SPARE THE TREES. Personnel of the Commission on Elections and Department of Environment and Natural Resources remove campaign materials nailed on trees in Isabela province on Tuesday (April 12, 2022). DENR-2 Regional Executive Director Gwendolyn Bambalan said in a briefing the law prohibits the cutting or injuring of planted or growing trees, flowering plants and shrubs or plants of scenic value in public places. (Photo by Villamor Visaya Jr.)

CITY OF ILAGAN, Isabela – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) led a day-long "Oplan Baklas" drive here on Tuesday, removing campaign posters and other paraphernalia on trees along Isabela’s main roads.

“We are appealing to the candidates and their supporters to follow the law. They could face legal sanctions if they continue to violate the rules,” DENR-Cagayan Valley Regional Executive Director Gwendolyn Bambalan said in a briefing prior to the operations.

She cited Republic Act 3571 which prohibits the cutting, destroying, or injuring of planted or growing trees, flowering plants and shrubs or plants of scenic value along public roads, in plazas, parks, school premises, or in any other public pleasure grounds.

“The trees provide ecological and environmental benefits. Let us conserve and spare trees from campaign posters,” she added.

Bambalan said under Presidential Decree 953 (Sec. 3), violators could be punished with imprisonment from six months to two years, or fine of not less than PHP500 and not more than PHP5,000, or both.

Lawyer Michael Camangeg, acting Isabela election supervisor, said the Comelec, through the Fair Elections Act, may authorize political parties to create common poster areas for their candidates in public places, but in no instance shall it designate as poster areas any trees, plants, or shrubs along public roads.

“In fact, the DENR is even authorized by the Commission to remove oversized posters and materials not in the common poster areas aside from the campaign paraphernalia nailed or posted at trees,” Camangeg added. (PNA)