The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has started to tear down campaign materials that are oversized and placed in areas not allowed by the poll body, after the deadline for candidates to remove them lapsed on Thursday.
More Comelec teams will be deployed around the northern and southern parts of Metro Manila and nearby provinces to pull down illegal campaign materials committed by candidates, the spokesman for the agency, James Jimenez said.
He said the Comelec will document all violations and will be using this as evidence when it files election violation cases against noncompliant candidates.
Jimenez said an election offense is punishable by up to six years imprisonment, fines, and disqualification.
Meanwhile, the Comelec reminded anew voters to ensure that their ballots are not pre-shaded and are free from unnecessary markings before they cast their vote in the May 2019 polls.
The Comelec called on the public to be vigilant about people who would want to rig the results of the scheduled midterm polls.
Jimenez also advised voters not to accept ballots with pre-shaded markings and ask for another ballot.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III asked the Comelec to identify the locations of his supposed posters so that he could immediately remove them.
“I have very few posters. Hence that’s most unlikely,” Pimentel said when he learned he was among those accused of violating the poster rules.
“Where are they located? So we can check and if true, I can have them removed,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel said they have many supporters who put up his campaign materials. Because of this, it is impossible for him to memorize all the locations of the posters they have put up.
“Anyway our general instructions to all campaign staff volunteers as well as all supporters is to follow the law,” he added.
The Comelec issued a notice reminding all candidates and parties to immediately remove all prohibited forms of election propaganda otherwise, the candidate or party shall be presumed to have committed the election offense.
Prohibited election materials are those posted outside common poster areas, such as parks and markets, the poll body said.
Those posted in private properties without the consent of the owners are also counted as a violation.
Under election rules, posters and banners with a maximum size of 61 centimeters by 91 cm or 91 cm by 61 cm are allowed.
Jimenez said the candidate or the political group would be held accountable regardless of who put up the illegal campaign materials.
“Any violation of campaign rules is an electoral offense, and an electoral offense is punishable among other things by disqualification,” he said.
A total of 62 candidates are running for senatorial posts while 134 groups are vying for party-list seats in the House of Representatives.
Also on Friday, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Friday threatened to file charges of violation of Presidential Decree 953 against any politicians for nailing or tacking campaign materials on trees.
In an interview, Undersecretary Benny Antiporda urged all candidates running in the midterm polls to stop from posting their election materials on trees just to get the attention of the voting public.
“We will go around different places in the country to identify violators of PD 953 so we could file cases against them whether they belong to the ruling party or the opposition group,” he told the Manila Standard.
Republic Act 3571 as amended by PD 953 prohibits the “cutting, destroying or injuring of planted or growing trees, flowering plants and shrubs or plants of scenic value along public roads, in plazas, school premises or in any other public ground.”
An offender who is a public officer of employee could be dismissed from the public service and disqualified perpetually to hold public office, the law states.
Antiporda said they have already fielded a team to go around Metro Manila and have instructed regional offices to closely monitor and document violations of PD 953.
He advised candidates and their supporters to voluntarily take down campaign posters on trees.