Comelec to bets: Take down those ads now

By Reynaldo Santos Jr.
Friday, 05 February 2010
Newsbreak Magazine

Comelec rules on pol ads take effect Feb.9

MANILA, Philippines--Candidates for national candidates in the May elections will have to start taking down their advertisements that don't follow prescribed guidelines before February 9, the start of the campaign period.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has released its set of campaign guidelines for 2010, which takes into consideration the new modalities of campaigning that are not specifically address by current laws.

Most national candidates have started promoting themselves since 2008, although the campaign period officially starts February 9 yet for national positions and March 26 for local positions. The campaign period ends May 8.

Politicians have been advertising on billboards and busses, which violate the rules on the size and placement of advertisements. However, the Supreme Court ruled that advertisements produced and released before the campaign period will not constitute premature campaigning.

All this will change now, when election regulations start taking effect on February 9. Under the Fair Election Practices act, the poll body will only allow the following:
Pamphlets, leaflets, cards, decals, stickers or other written or printed materials the size of which does not exceed 8 1/2 inches in width and 14 inches in length.
Handwritten or printed letters urging voters to vote for or against any particular political party or candidate for public office.
Posters made of cloth, paper, cardboard or any other material, whether framed or posted, with an area not exceeding 2 feet by 3 feet.
Streamers not exceeding 3 feet by 8 feet in size displayed at the site and on the occassion of a public meeting or rally.
Mobile units, vehicle motorcades of all types, whether engine or manpower driven or animal drawn, with or without sound systems or loud speakers and with or without lights.
Paid advertisements in print or broadcast media.

Candidates running for national position will be given 120 minutes for television advertisements and 180 minutes for radio advertisements. Candidates for local position, on the other hand, will be given 60 minutes for television advertisement and 90 minutes for radio advertisement. Air space does not include guestings of candidates in various TV and radio shows.

In print, advertisements can occupy 1/4 page in broadsheets, and 1/2 page in tabloids.

A common poster area will be assigned for all promotional posters and streamers. Candidates are not allowed to post their campaign materials outside this common area, “except in private properties with the consent of the owner” like campaign headquarters.

"Certainly, a lot of posters that you have been seeing right now fall far outside the allowable sizes for posters and streamers. So, they would be well-advised to start taking down or to stop showing their ads," Jimenez said.

Jimenez said that, theoretically, ordinary citizens can take down posters that they find not following the guidelines. The act, though, is not being encouraged by the poll body.

“There might be a danger to them from the supporters of the people who put up these posters. If it’s a private property, they might face charges for vandalism. Obstruction of private property is a serious offense,” he said.

With the rise of new methods for campaigning, the poll body said that they would be “probably not strict” in regulating it.

Jimenez said that individuals can apply to the Comelec the new modalities for campaigning. "The idea is if a new modality comes out and it is not prohibited by law, then we will allow it," he said.

But the poll body said that they won’t be liberal either with this. Jimenez said that the poll body is open to accept applications for a new campaign method from the public, but still subject on a hearing.

Even with the blatant use of Internet lately as a new venue for advertisement by candidates, Comelec did not include its regulation in its guidelines for campaign regulations this year.

Jimenez said in an earlier interview that Internet use in campaigning is a “virgin territory” that demands a lot of definitions and discussions.

"There's no law on cyber campaigning therefore we could have not made guidelines on it," Jimenez added.

Presidential and vice-presidential candidates are mandated to spend in their campaign 10 pesos for every voter. For other candidates, those supported by political parties should spend 3 pesos for every voter, while independent candidates should spend 5 pesos for every voter.

The poll body has 50,723,734 registered voters as of January 15. (Newsbreak)

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