Cops not allowed to take down campaign posters

(Photo courtesy of Comelec)

MANILA – Police officers should not be involved in the removal of illegally placed campaign materials and posters which are the subject of the 'Oplan Baklas' of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Friday.

"Sa actual na pagtatanggal at pagbabaklas (ng campaign materials), malinaw po ang tagubilin sa atin na dapat ang PNP po ay limited lamang sa pagbibigay ng security assistance sa miyembro ng task force (As for the actual operations on taking down campaign materials, we have a clear rule that the PNP's function is only limited to providing security assistance to members of the task force)," PNP spokesperson, Col. Jean Fajardo said in a radio interview.

Fajardo was referring to the task force on "Oplan Baklas" in every area which is chaired by the election officer and co-chaired by the chief of police.

This came amid viral photos of police officers taking down campaign materials in Echague, Isabela.

Fajardo said the matter has reached Camp Crame and is now under investigation.

"Pagpapaliwanagin po ang kanilang immediate supervisors (Their immediate supervisors will be asked to explain)," she added.

She also assured that PNP personnel who will be found to have violated the existing protocol on the matter will be reprimanded, if not penalized for their actions.

Clarify rules on campaign posters

Meanwhile, Partido Reporma standard-bearer Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson and running mate Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III said the Comelec should clarify its rules on campaign posters and have more practical and realistic regulations in the run-up to the May 9 national elections.

In their regular “Meet the Press” forum Thursday, the Lacson-Sotto tandem particularly asked Comelec to explain its guidelines on the size of campaign posters and their placement inside private property, and other permissible moves in these first elections held under a global pandemic of Covid-19.

Although the poll body said it would take down some posters and billboards inside homes or on private properties posted with the permission of their owners, Lacson said it could present an issue against the rights of the citizens who merely want to express their support for a particular candidate.

“Property ko ito, maski anong gawin ko rito, ‘wag lang ako makakasakit ng ibang tao. Bakit mo pagbabawalan? Kung ‘yung private property ko nilagyan ko ng kanyon na nakaubang, nakakapanakot, ‘yun pwede managot ‘yung may-ari ng bahay o ‘yung private property. Pero [‘yung] harmless na sabihin na nating tarpaulins o maski ano, I think they should revisit that (This is my property, I can do what I please with it, as long as I don’t hurt anyone else. Why won’t you allow it? If I put menacing cannons on my property that scare others, maybe then the homeowner or private property owner could be liable. But something as harmless as tarpaulins, I think they should revisit that (regulation)," he added.

Sotto said Comelec’s recent statements that it would hold candidates liable for such infractions were big threats and could be used by their political opponents to undermine them or have them disqualified.

The two also took the same position with Comelec’s other campaign regulations, such as candidates not being allowed to shake hands, take pictures, and otherwise mingle with their supporters in campaign sorties.

Sotto said it is hard to understand if candidates are in danger of disqualification by performing these acts, which are not prohibited by law, while other contenders are brazenly violating other regulations.

Lacson also believes it is impractical to get a permit from the poll body for each activity a candidate makes, especially if it does not cause any major inconvenience to the public, such as passing by or visiting public areas.

The Lacson-Sotto duo said since they declared their candidacies last September 2021, their campaign has strictly followed Comelec’s rules in ensuring a safe and fair campaign period.

They also urged the Comelec to penalize and make an example of candidates it thinks violated health protocols while campaigning to enforce true equality with their regulations. (PNA)

Source: Business Diary Philippines

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