• Trash the trapo

    2

    IT is quite distasteful, at the least, to see relatively young politicians embracing the trapo ways that they say they despise. They do it shamelessly just to call attention to themselves, and make people aware or recall their names.

    You know that someone has plans to seek public office when he/she starts putting up tarpaulins with his/her enlarged photographs in his/her most charming smile, sending greetings on holidays from Christmas to “Grandparents’ Day” or with reminders about social benefits the public could avail themselves of.

    They call it “feeling the pulse of the people,” or gauging their chances of winning an election.

    Those in public positions do it more blatantly, and most of them do it at the expense of taxpayers through official activities under the guise of public consultations, project inspections or inaugurations. You see their faces on huge project billboards.

    It is about time to turn the tables on these politicians, be they young or old.

    Voters should keep tabs on these politicians and be reminded of how they shamelessly abuse the resources of government to promote themselves.

    The shame campaign of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) against pampams, a play on the Tagalog word papansin or attention-seeker, deserves the support if you want electoral reforms.

    The shame campaign uses Namfrel’s Facebook page “Eleksyon 2016 Pampams” to show photos and videos of politicians promoting themselves.

    Namfrel, the citizen-arm of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), defined “pampams”as “those who project themselves via tarpaulins posted on wires, posts and walls, congratulating or announcing some event; or on social media sites, radio and TV ads, adding their names to public service projects such as conditional cash transfer, PhilHealth cards, relief goods distribution and vaccination campaigns, etc.”

    Namfrel is encouraging concerned citizens to send pictures or videos to its Facebook page or use Twitter using the hashtag #pampam to report self-promotion ads of politicians, especially those who may be using public resources.

    While these activities may not be unlawful in view of the 2009 Supreme Court ruling that effectively removed premature campaigning from our statute books, these are at least immoral and must be rejected.

    There may be anti-graft laws being violated by these shameless politicians who advertise themselves as “public servants” who can help improve people’s lives, but many of whom end up enriching themselves and enjoying the perks of public office to the max.

    Prospective candidates engaged in “pampams” or “epal” may be very well aware that litigation of cases in the country normally takes years and may even be longer than the term they are seeking, so they don’t really care about it.

    The landmark decision in the Peñera v. Comelec case has virtually erased the concept of premature image-building and self-promotion as an election offense by simply redefining a candidate and premature campaigning.

    “In layman’s language, this means that a candidate is liable for an election offense only for acts done during the campaign period, not before. The law is clear as daylight, any election offense that may be committed by a candidate under any election law cannot be committed before the start of the campaign period,” an excerpt of the Supreme Court decision said.

    This can only be overturned by a law that Congress would pass.

    Perhaps it is about time also to pay attention to the long-ignored proposal of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago to penalize “epal.”

    It seeks to prohibit prospective candidates from premature campaigning or self-promotion one year before the start of the official campaign period. It also requires politicians to lay down their political plans early, way before the actual filing of certificates of candidacy.

    This early, however, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, who chairs the local government committee tackling the Santiago bill, is saying that the proposal is difficult to implement simply because “it is not in our political culture to plan that early.”

    “It would be difficult to implement because you will be called to answer for acts you committed before you filed your [certificate of candidacy]and that would be eight months of decision making and actions, that you should be conscious for eight months that you would file your COC. So that means you will be watching your actions for eight months,” Pimentel was quoted to have said.

    A possible compromise, he said, would be to consider anybody who files a certificate of candidacy as a candidate, and would be prohibited from engaging in self-promotion and or election campaign from then until the start of the official campaign period.

    For the 2016 elections, the filing of Certificates of Candidacy had been set on October 12 to 16, or four months before the start of the official campaign period and seven months before Election Day.

    That would still not cover those who advertise themselves to be included in the quarterly surveys that, sadly, political parties use over performance and commitment to public service in choosing their candidates.

    Much needs to be done in the country’s electoral system to attract people genuinely committed to serving the public good to participate in the elections. As citizens, we have the responsibility to help achieve maturity in electing people who deserve our votes, and thrash those who have mastered the art of making promises but end up abusing public office.

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    2 Comments

    1. Teddy Sevilla on

      Trapos have always been ingenious in bending rules on premature campaigning, ranging from the traditional – i.e. graduation/fiesta//christmas/etc greetings, taking personal credit for relief goods and infrastructure projects – to the novel – coffins and rosaries. Comelec has given up.

      A radical,comprehensive way to end this is to ban all candidate-funded campaigning altogether. All qualified candidates would have to make do with common public billboards, public debates moderated by electoral bodies or neutral groups, and state-sponsored media ads giving equal opportunities to each candidate to present their platform. It has been done in some countries before (I have to research which specifically as this is an off-the-cuff commentary), but, I have to admit, an impossibility in ours.

      Thank you Ms. Valderama for this article.

    2. Sense less blah…blah…blah… Electors decides on 13th hour before election or a minute before trekking to voting poll.