The Commission on Elections and the Civil Service Commission this week reminded all state employees to avoid engaging in partisan political activities during the election season.
Emphasizing that government workers should remain politically neutral, a joint memorandum circular identified various activities that may be construed as electioneering. The prohibited acts are those designed to promote the election or defeat of a particular candidate or party to public office. Those found guilty on first offense will face suspension from one month and one day to six months.
What are allowed are expressing views on current political problems or issues and mentioning the names of candidates whom the state employees support. Liking, commenting, sharing, reposting or following an account on social media during the campaign period is also allowed, unless these are used to solicit support for or against a specific candidate or party.
The intent of the circular is clear—to impress upon government officials that while they may have their personal preferences and opinions on the elections, they still carry the face of a neutral government. Their private views must not in any way affect the way they perform their jobs.
Practically, however, it would be nearly impossible to draw clear and distinct lines between expressing views, endorsing a favored candidate and actively campaigning for somebody.
We have to look no further than the Palace, whose own occupants—led by no less than the President—have confused their hats for many months now in their rabid support of the Liberal Party’s bets. Spokesmen have served as mouthpieces not for the Office of the President but for the campaign, and the President himself just last month delivered a takedown speech against Robredo’s rival, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
This affliction has not been limited to Team Yellow, and to the top levels of government. On all other political corners, the rhetoric has primarily been to boost a favored candidate’s chances or throw mud at the most promising opponent—especially in the provinces where the lines may be blurred or disappear altogether.
Now that the circular is out, we will see if state employees, especially those who are all too aware of their clout, would at least attempt to moderate their zeal especially if their own, their relative’s, their ally’s or their patron’s interests are at stake. We don’t expect them to, but it might be instructive to know who would remain brazen about their political color.