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May polls not a vote on administration—Sotto

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Thursday rejected suggestions by the opposition that the May elections will be a referendum on President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Nope, I do not agree. The President is not endorsing a full slate,” Sotto said, adding that the campaign issue is not whether voters support Duterte or not.

“It’s about what you can do for the country,” he said.

Sotto’s own Nationalist People’s Coalition has yet to endorse a full senatorial slate because its members have not been able to agree who to support.

Sotto earlier said the NPC would support Senators Grace Poe and JV Ejercito and former Senator Lito Lapid but said consultations were still be held.

Meanwhile, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said “justice was served” after the Commission on Elections declared him eligible to run for senator in the 2019 national elections.

READ: Pimentel barred from running for senator —lawyer

“We’re extremely pleased with the decision, which clears the air of any supposed legal uncertainty that may have been caused by efforts to derail my candidacy,” Pimentel said.

The Comelec First Division dismissed the two petitions for disqualification filed against him in a ruling dated Feb. 13, 2019.

The Comelec said he had initially lost the 12th winning senatorial seat during the 2007 elections, but became senator after he filed an election protest that prospered.

“It was only then that Pimentel began to discharge his duties and function of a senator. It is clear that Pimentel has not fully served his term, thus the two-term limit does not yet apply to him,” the Comelec said.

The Philippine National Police on Thursday ordered the recall of all police officers from in-house training and other forms of schooling to maximize personnel deployment for the May polls.

PNP chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde, said this is a standard protocol during the campaign period.

“We are more than 192,000 or almost 200,000 and also with the augmentation coming from the AFP we are confident that we will be able to secure the voting population and all the voting centers,” Albayalde said.

Senior Supt. Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson, said there are about 2,000 policemen currently attending in-house training and schooling. By April, all policemen are expected to be fielded in various areas in their mother units for election duties.

On Tuesday, the PNP identified 701 areas in the country as election hotspots as the 90-day campaign period for senatorial bets and party-list groups started.

READ: Poll hotspots expand to 94

Banac said the number of election hotspots may increase once the campaign period for local candidates ―from congressmen and governor down to city and town councilors―starts on March 29.

Earlier, Albayalde said they will intensify intelligence gathering and provide maximum police visibility, especially in areas in the hotspot list.

He also reiterated the PNP’s strict compliance with all Commission on Elections resolutions banning the carrying of firearms and employment of bodyguards.

“Everyone is reminded of the Alunan Doctrine that allows only two security personnel under extreme cases, subject to background investigation and approval by Comelec,” he added.

Also on Thursday, the Comelec reminded government and civil service employees that they are barred from campaigning for or against particular candidates, even on social media, but are free to share personal political views.

The Comelec warned that it will file appropriate charges against any government employees, police and military personnel found engaging in partisan politics.

This includes 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 making speeches.

“It also includes announcements, commentaries, 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; and directly or indirectly soliciting votes, pledges, support for or against any candidate or party,” Jimenez said.

However, Jimenez said government employees are allowed social media functions such as liking, commenting, sharing, reposting, or following a candidate or party’s account provided that they do not directly or indirectly campaign for their preferred candidates.

The Comelec has sent written notices to some senatorial candidates after the poll body said that they continue to violate the Fair Elections Act by not removing their illegal posters.

The Comelec earlier set Feb.14 as the deadline for candidates to remove their illegal campaign materials, which are either over-sized or placed in prohibited areas.

READ: Campaign posters outlawed

READ: Arroyo goes all out for Hugpong

Topics: Vicente Sotto III , May elections , Rodrigo Duterte , Nationalist People’s Coalition
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