FLAGSHIP PROGRAM. A local party insists that its banners which are hoisted at the Bacolod Public Plaza are not election paraphernalia but symbols of reelectionist Mayor Monico Puentevella's 'flagship program'. Photo by Bacolod Mover Nicci Aguilar/Rappler.com
BACOLOD, Philippines— In Bacolod City, banners of a local political party are hoisted up the flagpoles at the public plaza and in front of the old City Hall.
Does this violate election propaganda rules?
The Magbinuligay Kita Para Sa Kauswagan (MKK) Partido Bacolod, in a statement, insisted that this does not violate Comelec rules. According to MMK, the flag merely symbolizes the "flagship program" of Mayor Monico Puentevella's.
The reelectionist mayor, who is running under the National Unity Party (NUP), is up against Evelio Leonardia of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC)-Grupo Progress and independent candidate Wilfredo David. READ: A guide to Bacolod city elections)
CAMPAIGN FLAGS. Flags of a local party replace the Philippine flag in front of the Old City Hall in Bacolod City. Photo by Bacolod Mover Nicci Aguilar/Rappler.com
According to Comelec, the public areas where posting of campaign materials is prohibited include the following:
Publicly-owned electronic billboards
Motor vehicles used as patrol cars or ambulances
Government-controlled public transits such as the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the Philippine National Railways (PNR)
Main thoroughfares, waiting sheds, sidewalks, lamp posts and street signages
Schools and barangay halls
Public transport terminals
However, Republic Act no. 8941 – also known as the flag and heraldic code – requires the Philippine flag to be displayed "in all public buildings, official residences, public plazas, and institutions of learning everyday throughout the year."
Clean and green?
Meanwhile, though Comelec has already assigned areas in the city where campaign materials can be placed, posters are still seen hanging from electrical posts, bridges and overpasses, main buildings, public buildings, center islands.
Election posters are also nailed or tied on trees around the city. Although discouraged by authorities, materials used for campaigning are mostly made of non-biodegradable materials.
CLEAN AND GREEN? Campaign materials are nailed on trees in the streets of Bacolod City. Photo by Bacolod Mover Claudia Gangayco/Rappler.com
Comelec noted that its Resolution No. 9615 expanded the 'green' provision of its rules, but acknowledged the need to limit the use of plastics as campaign materials:
"Parties and candidates are hereby encouraged to use recyclable and environment-friendly materials and avoid those that contain hazardous chemicals and substances in the production of their campaign and election propaganda. In local government units where local legislation governing the use of plastic and other similar materials exist, parties and candidates shall comply with the same.”
NAILED ON TREES. Campaign paraphernalia materials are nailed on trees along the streets of Bacolod City. Photo by Claudia Gangayco
The growing pile of campaign materials made of non-biodegradable materials is expected to turn into a gigantic heap of waste after the campaign period.
Three government agencies earlier vowed to keep an eye on political parties, national and local candidates, and their supporters to make sure they abide by the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 (Republic Act No. 9003). (READ: Gov't aims for 'garbage-free' 2016 elections)
Comelec also called on the public to join its online “shame campaign” by reporting political camps that will violate election propaganda rules.
A reelectionist mayoral candidate in Quezon province recently irked netizens after her slate's campaign materials covered the town's Andres Bonifacio shrine, prompting her to immediately remove the posters.
Candidates who violate Comelec rules will face imprisonment for one to 6 years, not subject to probation. They will also be disqualified from seeking public office and be ineligible to vote.
As soon as Comelec received reports from its partners – and even from the netizens – it will investigate whether a misplaced poster was authorized by a candidate or a political party.
Campaign for the national posts kicked off on February 9, while local candidates started campaigning on March 25. Read Rappler’s story to know the complete list of prohibited acts during the campaign season. – Rappler.com
Claudia Gancayco and Nicci Aguilar, Movers in Bacolod City, are students of the University of St La Salle.