Campaigning in groups not allowed – Pimentel

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Hundreds of policemen stand at attention in Camp Crame as they wait for their deployment orders for the barangay elections on Monday.  Photo By Miguel De Guzman

Hundreds of policemen stand at attention in Camp Crame as they wait for their deployment orders for the barangay elections on Monday.
Photo By Miguel De Guzman

THE “father” of the law that created local government units (LGU) on Thursday said candidates who are campaigning for barangay positions as a team or a group are violating the law against partisanship which may lead to their disqualification.

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Former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., the principal author of the Local Government Code, stopped short of saying that the barangay election system was a failure because the Commission on Elections (Comelec) failed to “strictly implement the law.”

“The principle on non-partisanship is not observed. Forming a team of barangay candidates is illegal. You are not supposed to campaign as a group. A candidate can only campaign for himself. That is the law,” Pimentel told The Manila Times.

The former senate president observed that candidates seem unaware of this prohibition as posters containing the names and faces of rival “teams” litter the entire country.

“The law should be implemented. There is a glaring lack of implementation of the law. It is an oversight on the part of the Comelec because it is supposed to implement the law strictly,” Pimentel said.

“It is not the fault of the law [why these violations are being committed]. It is the lack of strict implementation of the law [that should be blamed],” he stressed.

‘Not prohibited’
But Comelec spokesman James Jimenez offered a different view. According to him, while the law prohibits “partisanship and the participation of political parties” in the barangay elections, “informal groups are not prohibited.”

“Per our interpretation, informal grouping that is short of forming an organization is allowed. We have no ruling on that yet,” Jimenez told the Times, stressing that they have yet to encounter a case wherein one candidate has lodged a complaint against a rival “team.”

“Kung may mag-file ng complaint, dun lang mag-uusap [If a complaint is filed, that will be discussed]. If that is challenged . . . we will welcome anything that clarifies the law,” he added.

Jimenez said they are on the lookout for violations on the sizes and locations of campaign posters being used by candidates. He added that mayors, governors and lawmakers should not give support to barangay candidates.

“When a violation is committed, we talk to the complainant and pursue a disqualification case,” the poll body official said.

Non-partisan
Section 38 of the Omnibus Election Code explicitly states that “The barangay election shall be non-partisan and shall be conducted in an expeditious and inexpensive manner.”

“No person who files a certificate of candidacy shall represent or allow himself to be represented as a candidate of any political party or any other organization; and no political party, political group, political committee, civic, religious, professional, or other organization or organized group of whatever nature shall intervene in his nomination or in the filing of his certificate of candidacy or give aid or support, directly or indirectly, material or otherwise favorable to or against his campaign for election…” the Code further provides.

However, the same provision does not apply to the members of the family of a candidate “within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity nor to the personal campaign staff of the candidate which shall not be more than one for every one hundred registered voters in his barangay.”

Pimentel said that since no candidate can be jailed for violating the law against “partisanship” in the barangay polls, the Comelec can move to disqualify the candidates.

“One of the powers the Comelec has over them [candidates]is disqualification. Violators should be penalized for not following. But who’s going to file a complaint when everybody is doing the same?” he pointed out.

On Wednesday, Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. warned that local government officials who would be caught endorsing barangay candidates may be jailed.

But he admitted that it is hard to catch officials supporting barangay bets, saying they do not “support in the open.”

Around 54 million voters are expected to vote in the October 28 barangay elections and around 500,000 candidates are seeking election. The Comelec has set aside 170,603 clustered precincts spread throughout the country’s 42,028 barangays in 80 provinces

Slightly violent
Also on Thursday, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said that the upcoming village elections is turning out to be more violent than the barangay elections last held in 2010.

As of Thursday, authorities have already recorded at least 30 election related incidents (ERIs) across the country.

The PNP figures indicated that the 30 ERI’s recorded by the police ahead of Monday’s village elections is higher than the 25 ERIs that police have recorded in the 2010 village elections.

Most of the 30 ERI’s recorded were 38 shooting incidents and 2 stabbing with 51 casualties recorded, the PNP figures showed.

These ERI’s resulted in the killing of 22 individuals, half of whom were elected officials and the other half were civilians. Also, 24 individuals were wounded.

Jimenez, who attended the conference in Camp Crame, said that in Metro Manila, 39 villages are on the “watchlist.”

“There are 509 arrests related to the election gun ban and it seems the PNP is on top of the situation,” he said.

The PNP leadership said the overall peace and order situation in the country as still manageable.

“There was a slight increase in ERI’s . . . but so far, the situation still remain manageable,” PNP spokesman, Senior Supt. Wilben Mayor, said in a chance interview.

He claimed that they are set to raise one notch higher the alert level status of their forces across the country on the eve of Election Day as police continue to implement stricter security measures.

“The PNP will continue to implement the election gun ban and also at the same we will raise the alert level of our forces this weekend . . . and we are also ready to implement a liquor ban,” Mayor said.

Of the 509 individuals apprehended for violations of the gun ban, majority are civilians at 475; security guards, 19; 5 policemen; 4 military personnel; 4 government officials and 2 militiamen.

Police confiscated a total of 412 assorted types of firearms; 170 bladed weapons; 221 other types of explosives; 65 grenades; 18 gun replicas and 3,153 rounds of ammunitions.

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