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Comelec starts ‘Operation Baklas’ against illegal campaign materials

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) confiscated hundreds of illegal campaign materials Friday as the poll body launched the first day of “Operation Baklas” against election violators ahead of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) on Oct. 30.

The nationwide effort, which will run until Oct. 27, will remove campaign materials put up outside designated common poster areas and those that exceed two by three feet.

Comelec Chairman George Garcia reminded BSKE candidates to strictly adhere to Comelec’s rules and regulations regarding campaign materials to avoid any problems.

He said the number of BSKE candidates who are facing allegations of premature campaigning is now nearing 4,000.

The Comelec also said that campaign materials should also not be offensive, or violate gender sensitivity principles, or rules against obscenity and discrimination. They must also bear the words “political advertisement aid for / by” or the words “printed free of charge.”

“Candidates are also prohibited from distributing items such as t-shirts, ballers, bags, caps, and other items,” he added.

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) on Friday urged the 1.9 million government employees across the country to refrain from participating in electioneering and partisan activities, as the BSKE candidates campaign from Oct. 19 to 28.

Electioneering and partisan political activity refer to acts designed to promote the election or defeat of a particular candidate or party to public office.

In a statement, CSC Chairperson Karlo Nograles said the 1987 Constitution mandates that no officer or employee in the civil service shall engage, directly or indirectly, in these acts, while the same prohibition can be found in the CSC – Commission on Elections (Comelec) Joint Circular No. 1, series of 2016 promulgated on March 29, 2016.

A personnel of the Commission on Elections gathers illegal campaign materials during the start of the poll body’s ‘Operation Baklas’ on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023 along Oroquieta Street in Sta. Cruz, Manila. Norman Cruz

“The commission acknowledges civil servants’ shared desire to contribute to improved public service delivery through electoral participation. However, we must remain mindful not to engage in electioneering or partisan activities during this period. This precautionary measure underscores our commitment to maintaining the integrity and neutrality of the public service,” he said.

The prohibition covers members of the civil service, whether permanent, temporary, contractual, or casual, who are employed in all branches, subdivisions, instrumentalities and agencies of the Philippine government; career officers holding political offices in an acting or officer-in-charge (OIC) capacity; and uniformed and active members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

Employees on leave of absence are also covered.

Civil servants are not allowed to engage in forming organizations, associations, clubs, committees, or other groups of persons for the purpose of soliciting votes or undertaking any campaign for or against a candidate or party; and holding political caucuses, conferences, meetings, rallies, parades, or other similar assemblies for the purpose of soliciting votes and/or undertaking any campaign for or against a candidate or party.

They are also prohibited from making speeches, announcements, commentaries or holding interviews for or against the election of any candidate or party for public office; publishing, displaying or distributing campaign literature or materials designed to support or oppose the election of any candidate or party; or directly or indirectly soliciting votes, pledges or support for or against a candidate or party.

The joint circular also prohibits government employees from being a delegate to any political convention, or a member of any political committee or directorate, or an officer of any political club or other similar political organizations; receiving any contributions for political purposes, either directly or indirectly; and becoming publicly identified with the success or failure of any candidate or party; and wearing of T-shirts or pins, caps or any other similar election paraphernalia bearing the names of the candidates or political party except as authorized by the Commission on Elections.

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