Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has deplored the malpractice of premature campaigning by candidates ahead of the national and local elections as a desperate bid to advance and enhance their chances of getting elected in public office.
A known election lawyer, De Lima labelled such move – which takes advantage of a gap in the country’s election laws and jurisprudence, and is characterized by “full of lavish or immoderate display of signifying nothing” – as “epal politics.”
“Maliban sa ang ganyang klase ng kampanya ay sumisira sa balanse at patas na eleksyon, lumalayo rin ito sa dapat na maging sentro ng diskusyon tuwing halalan – ang pagtalakay at pagpanukala ng solusyon sa mga mabibigat na problema ng bayan,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 447.
Even before campaign period starts, some individuals, who filed certificates of candidacy roam around the country attending public gatherings, displaying their posters in public spaces and distributing goods to gain public awareness, among others.
Mindful of the loopholes in the country’s election laws, the former justice secretary has filed as early as July 2018 Senate Bill No. (SBN) 1893 which seeks to redefine activities that are considered premature campaigning.
In filing the measure, De Lima said prospective candidates should be “held liable for premature campaigning within one year before the start of the campaign period” because it will allow for the citizenry’s meaningful exercise of their sovereign right to choose the country’s leaders.
One of the many candidates who was involved in activities that smack of premature campaigning includes former Special Assistant to the President and now Duterte’s “super alalay” Christopher “Bong” Go.
The lady Senator from Bicol took issue on Go’s “highly irregular and questionable” campaigning style which engaged in premature campaigning that presumably made use of public funds.
“Bong Go is everywhere, inescapable in all sizes and in all forms. There has been an ongoing invasion of public spaces by his tarpaulins and expensive billboards, and on TV, radio, print and social media, he’s ubiquitous these past months,” she said.
“He obviously has a well-oiled electoral machinery. But where does he get the funds? He does all these even way before the start of the official campaign period, taking advantage of a gap in our election laws and jurisprudence which tolerates premature campaigning,” she added.
According to De Lima, it is clear that Go follows the template of “epal politics” but “his case is so brazen in its utter lack of delicadeza.”
“Habang ang ibang mga kandidato ay abalang inaayos ang kanilang plataporma at mga isyung nais tugunan at mga batas na nais isulong, si Bong Go ay abala sa pagrampa gamit ang makinarya at pondo ng gobyerno,” she said.
Even though SBN 189 remains hard to push among many lawmakers, De Lima said she still has high hopes that the Filipino people would choose candidates in the upcoming midterm elections wisely.
“I am hoping that by now, it is becoming apparent to the Filipino public that our mounting social, political and economic problems cannot be resolved by mere jokes and being jocular, more so being Epal,” she said.
The Commission on Elections admitted it cannot stop individuals from making himself visible to the public eye in order to improve their chances for public elective office due to the absence of a definitive law against premature campaigning which makes De Lima’s measure very relevant.