The Filipino star
October 3, 2021 | 00h00
On the first day of filing nomination papers, the Election Commission sent a message to aspirants: there is a formal campaign period for national and local betting, and they should refrain from campaigning early. But with the Supreme Court ruling that there is no premature campaign, Comelec can only appeal to the best kind of candidates.
Some quarters argue that it can be difficult to define what activities constitute a campaign, especially for outgoing public servants whose positions allow them to interact with voters. But there are certain acts that unmistakably constitute a campaign: posting self-promotional material, whether on the streets or on social media, for example, or distributing items such as t-shirts and shoes to the public in rubber stamp with the image and name of a person. Even using the COVID vaccination campaign to promote a particular official can be interpreted as a campaign for someone who has already filed a certificate of nomination.
Comelec may be powerless to stop a campaign prematurely, but the candidates themselves should want the campaign to be strictly limited to a limited period set by law or electoral rules. The bargaining and courting of votes make election campaigns extremely expensive in this country. Raising money for a decent election campaign often paves the way for future couple deals and other corrupted contracts awarded by winners to their supporters as payment for utang na loob or debt of gratitude.
Election campaigns and the lack of regulation of campaign finance breed corruption. The failure to develop a merit-based society is also rooted in the propensity of successful candidates to use public service appointments or promotions as rewards for their support during election campaigns, as qualifications for the post are only ‘an afterthought.
A shorter campaign period would mean lower expenses – and less gratitude debts to campaign donors. While wealthy candidates will always have an advantage, a shorter campaign period and the resulting reduced spending can help level the playing field for those with limited resources.
Comelec’s call for candidates sounded like a howl to the moon. Many voters, however, can tell who is brazenly leading a premature campaign. Voters can voice their dissatisfaction at the polls.