MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday said it will push through tearing down illegal campaign materials as the poll body recorded several violations during the first day of the campaign period for the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE).
"May ilang paglabag tulad ng paglalagay sa poste at sa kawad ng kuryente. Mag-ingat-ingat lang baka makuryente... este ma-disqualify sila (There are several violations like posting [campaign materials] in [electric] posts and electric wires. Be careful, you might be electrocuted... disqualified rather)," Comelec Chairperson George Erwin Garcia said over Viber.
Garcia will lead the Oplan Baklas in Manila on Friday, with similar operations happening simultaneously across the country, Comelec Spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco told reporters.
The Oplan Baklas runs from Oct. 20 to 27 and involves removing all wrong-sized campaign materials including billboards, tarpaulins, and individual posters exceeding two by three feet in common poster areas.
For unlawful campaign materials in public and private properties, a notice to remove and a show cause order will be sent to the concerned BSK bets.
Besides the Oplan Baklas, the Comelec earlier vowed to implement stringent monitoring against vote-buying as it vowed to issue show cause orders and disqualification petitions against candidates who will be presumed to have engaged in physical or digital vote-buying.
Actions presumable as forms of vote buying include the distribution of ballers, T-shirts, caps, food and drinks, financial assistance, and the like; as well as the malicious or suspicious transaction or cash flow using digital platforms like Gcash and Maya, among others.
Some barangay voters, meanwhile, expressed delight over the Comelec's strict guidelines to ensure a clean and honest election.
In an interview, May Bade, 38, a barangay voter, said candidates should save giving freebies or assistance for when they win the elections.
"Bawal po talaga dapat iyon, siguro gawin na lang po ng mga kagawad iyon after election kung sinong mananalo (That's really prohibited, maybe the counselors should just do that after elections, whoever will win)," she told the Philippine News Agency (PNA), as she urged eventual winners to focus on education, health, and environmental projects for the youth and senior citizens.
Leonides Yap, 57, also lauded the Commission's move against vote buying and selling.
"Kung ako bilang isang kandidato, malaking tipid iyon! Kasi binawal na yung mga cap, baller, mga T-shirt. Tapos yung mga tarpaulin kelangan maliit lang. Malaking bagay iyon sa kandidato dahil medyo makakatipid sila sa gastusin (If i am a candidate, that's a huge saving! Because the distribution of caps, ballers, T-shirts are not allowed. And then the tarpaulins should be small. That's a big thing for a candidate to cut their expenses)," he said.
Earlier, Comelec reiterated that all candidates must observe the PHP5 budget per voter rule for their campaign expenditures.
If found guilty, erring BSK candidates will be punished with at least one to six years imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
Teachers' protection in BARMM
Garcia, meanwhile, secured an agreement with the Ministry of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education (MBHTE) to ensure the welfare of teachers who will serve in the Oct. 30 BSKE in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
"We have to afford protection to all of our teachers, not only in Luzon or Visayas but more particularly in the Bangsamoro," Garcia said.
The poll body chief said the government's assistance to teachers should not be limited to financial help.
"Kinakailangan (It needs to be) legal and such other assistance that will help our teachers in the performance of their duty," Garcia added.
Earlier, the poll body secured a separate agreement with the Department of Education and the Public Attorney's Office to ensure protection for teachers subjected to legal hurdles in the conduct of their election duty.
Through the agreement, teachers will be provided with free legal assistance in answering complaints and accomplishing all other legal procedures. (PNA)