By Chito Chavez
Less than three weeks before the official campaign period starts, youth activists Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) scored Presidential spokesperson and Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo for insisting that it was by mere coincidence that certain candidates aligned with the Duterte administration were present during his official events.
The group claimed Panelo was covering up for the presidential allies despite resigning from their posts to file their certificates of candidacies (COC) last October.
The group asserted candidates close to the President are given undue advantage of media mileage adding that state resources and facilities are being exploited to boost their electoral bids.
“No matter how much sugar-coating Palace officials exert to shield Duterte of partisanship and his allies of exploiting the bureaucracy, they will fail to convince ordinary Filipinos to elect them,” said Shara Mae Landicho, spokesperson of SPARK.
She insisted that Malacanang, as well as their bets, are “mistaken into believing that good and bad publicity are of equal footing in the coming elections’’.
“Thick-faced Epals shall only reap the peoples’ disgust, never our admiration, much less our votes,” she added.
“Epal” in local parlance refers to a person who inappropriately presents himself or butts into a conversation or situation to boost his stock.
Among the aspirants for senator the president has publicly endorsed and was spotted in his public appearances include former Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Christopher “Bong’’ Go, folk singer Ferdinand Aguilar, former police chief Ronald dela Rosa and former opposition stalwart Mar Roxas.
“The outcome of the 2016 elections remains fresh in the memories of many. Its outcome reflected the collective rejection of millions of ordinary Filipinos to the audacity of the campaign strategy of Mar Roxas that depicted him doing menial tasks despite his elitist public image,” Landicho noted.
The militant youth group said the same repudiation should be leveled by the voting public against the candidates running on Malacanang’s endorsement and exploiting its authority and resources.
Landicho, an engineering student at the University of the Philippines (UP) stressed “the youth are up to their necks with blatant lack of modesty by candidates who publicize their faces and names on all available public spaces’’.
“They claim to have this noble vocation to serve the nation but all they do is promote themselves, attending events at the expense of taxpayers’ money and worse, publicly making false claims on their educational attainments,” the activist youth group said in a statement.
SPARK added that these candidates have “zero sense of honor, propriety, and decency”.
Landicho warned candidates seeking to get as much publicity by riding on the official itinerary of the president or attending events of state agencies will only increase their chances of losing.
“Remember, the Duterte administration is not immaculate as they think it is. The president’s atrocious policies and pronouncements will reflect on the people’s ballots. Duterte’s endorsement is the kiss of death. Epals such as Bong Go and Bato shall reap a resounding rejection for all of this administration’s crimes against the Filipino nation,” Landicio declared.
The administration’s major atrocities SPARK claimed included the blatant disregard for human rights and the spate of extra-judicial killings, reneging on his promise to end contractual employment, his failure to increase employment opportunities under his Build, Build, Build program, his failure to provide free education for all students despite its legislation and the increasing cost of living due to inflation and his unrepentant over taxation of the people.
Landicho said SPARK is also consulting with lawyers to determine if the press statements issued by the state-owned Philippine News Agency (PNA) on the activities of Bong Go constitute a violation of Article 261 of the Omnibus Election Code.
SPARK claimed to have counted at least 68 instances were Bong Go was dubiously mentioned by PNA news articles since resigning from his post as SAP last October.
Of the 68 articles, SPARK claimed, a good majority or 58 were articles which evolved around his itinerary and his advocacies.
SPARK said this is “highly dubious” since, his more than two-year stint as Special Assistant to the President (SAP) generated lesser articles on his official duties besides being Duterte’s companion.
“We encourage the youth to take a critical stance versus these Epals. We must not accept this ‘hideousness’ as a norm. It is time to weaponize our idealism and challenge these shameless politicians and hold them accountable on election day,” the group’s statement added. (Chito A. Chavez)