By Chito Chavez
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has vowed to apply the full force of the law against stubborn local government units (LGU) that allow the posting of campaign propaganda on public properties.
DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año warned local chief executives (LCE) that he would not have second thoughts in imposing the stiffest possible sanctions on them if they remain adamant in following his order of clearing all government facilities, properties, and vehicles of political campaign materials.
“We will not allow candidates to use government properties as a platform for their election campaign. It’s clearly prohibited. Government buildings, properties, vehicles, and equipment are for official use only and may not be used as venues or tools for partisan political activity,” said Año.
If the concerned LGU remains non-compliant, the DILG will confer with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to inform the LGU of the election offense.
DILG Assistant Secretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya cautioned the stubborn LCEs that the offense may lead to jail time and disqualification from running in the May 2019 mid-term elections.
He assured the public the rule will be fairly administered without any bias even to the supporters of President Duterte and candidates of the administration.
“The Comelec has promised to act on these violations immediately. There are Comelec election officers in most towns in the country who should attend to citizens’ reports,’’ Malaya said.
Malaya noted that Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code bans the use of public funds, money deposited in trust, equipment, facilities owned or controlled by government, for any election campaign or any partisan political activity.
He also urged the public to report LGUs violating the election ban to Comelec or the DILG by taking a picture of the campaign material together with a copy of the day’s newspaper.
On Thursday, the Comelec ordered 34 election candidates to take down their illegal posters as the official campaign period has yet to start on March 30 for local election candidates and those vying for a seat at the House of Representatives.
The DILG banned LGU officials and employees from promoting or endorsing candidates of the upcoming elections and must abstain from engaging in partisan political activities, except local elective officials who, by the political nature of their position, are exempted from the ban.
“Civil service personnel are tasked to serve our country with integrity and neutrality. It’s none of our business to influence public opinion on poll bets. Let’s just do our jobs and respect the people’s ability to make informed decisions during the May elections,” said Año.
He asked all LGU officials to heed the President’s call for “honest and clean” elections which means adherence to all election laws and regulations.
In 2016, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and Comelec issued Joint Resolution 1600298 prohibiting all LGU officials and employees from participating in any electioneering and partisan political activities during the campaign season, except local elective officials who, by the nature of their office, are exempted.
According to the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in CSC Resolution No. 1101502, those found guilty of partisan political activity will be charged with 1-6 months of suspension without pay on the first offense and dismissal from the service and permanent disqualification from the civil service on the second offense.
Section 264 of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines considers election-related violations as criminal offenses and therefore punishes the offender with 1-6 years of imprisonment, disqualification from public office, and prohibition from exercising his/her voting rights.