By NITZ ARANCON
and LITO RULONA
ELECTIONS commission officials here yesterday cautioned politicians seeking public office to be careful about political advertising, warning them that violations could cost them their candidacy.
The warning came even as Commission on Elections regional director Renato Magbutay announced that authorities would start doing the rounds in Cagayan de Oro and elsewhere in the region to see if there are violations.
The inspections would be made in time for the start of the campaign period for national candidates and party-list groups seeking congressional seats.
Soon, Comelec would lead a group called “Task Force Baklas” to take down the political billboards, campaign tarpaulins and posters in areas not designated as areas for campaign materials.
The task force include the police, Department of Public Works and Highways, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
“Nag-coordinate na kita sa kapolisan for the operation ‘baklas.’ Naa nay designated area ang mga kabarangayan. Barangay officials can [remove the illegal campaign materials] separately,” said Ramil Acol, city elections officer.
Acol said citizens may file cases against violators of election rules.
Magbutay said the Comelec would be sending letters to different political groups with candidates found to be violating election rules on outdoor advertising.
He said violators would be given five days from today to take down their campaign materials or else.
“Hagatan gihapon nato sila sa due process. Kon dili gyud nila tangtangon, ang Task Force Baklas na dayon sa Comelec ang magtangtang ana, unya mapasakaan pa sila ug kaso,” Magbutay said.
“Violation nang dagkong billboard nga botangan sa ilang mga political propaganda sa mga kandidato,” added Magbutay.
But there is a grey area: the Supreme Court has ruled that politicians who filed their certificates of candidacy are only considered candidates the moment the campaign period begins. This means that politicians who started outdoor advertising campaigns may not be held liable for violation of election rules because, technically, they are not yet candidates. The campaign period for senatorial candidates and party-list groups starts today; the campaign period for local candidates starts on March 29.
Those who filed their certificates of candidacy for local positions, including congressional seats, are still off the hook.
Carlito Ravelo, elections officer for Camiguin, said, “Sa pagkakaron, dili pa na sila kandidato kay ang kampanya local sa March 29 pa man. Bo-ot pasabot nga ayha ra na sila mahimong ilhon nga kandidato sa March 29.”
Magbutay said this also means that the Comelec cannot stop politicians running for local positions from campaigning for national candidates. But he added that local politicians may not yet campaign for themselves until March 29.
“Maka-commit lang sila og violation during the campaign period — Feb. 12 sa national and then March 29 sa local,” Acol said.
The Comelec set rules on campaign tarpaulins and posters. These should not exceed 2×3 feet, and these should only be hanged in common poster areas designated by the Comelec.
As for radio commercials, candidates are only allowed up to 120 minutes of airtime per TV station, and up to 180 minutes per radio station.
Candidates for local posts are allowed 60 to 90 minutes per station.
Senatorial candidates running under a political party are allowed to spend a maximum of P183 million while independent candidates can spend up to P305 million.
The spending cap for those running for local office will depend on the population of a city or municipality.
The violation of campaign rules is equivalent to an electoral offense, and those who do not follow them could be disqualified.