Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Sunday local government units will face sanctions if they do not enforce the guidelines he will issue soon regarding activities of electoral candidates — particularly caravans and other mass gatherings — ahead of the start of the official campaign period in February next year.
"I myself will issue guidelines to LGUs, what are the rules when there is a caravan and motorcade in your area and what we should watch out for and not allow,” Año said in a radio interview, when sought for his comment on various campaign activities being conducted by candidates, particularly those running for national positions in Metro Manila.
Año maintained that an LGU's role is only to implement the existing laws and regulations based on the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) guidelines against the coronavirus pandemic.
In case of a breach in protocols, he said law enforcers would run after the organizers and “then if no action from the LGU, we can run after the LGU, then if they take no action, we can go after them and of course, the personalities and candidates should be accountable also," since they are the principals in the political activity.
Año noted that political party representatives promised to impose “self-policing" and “self-restriction" during the coordination meetings, adding that what the Philippine National Police (PNP) and LGUs can do is only to implement the minimum public health standards.
"The MMDA (Metropolitan Manila Development Authority), LGUs, and the PNP have set many rules that will protect our countrymen," he added.
Año said in areas placed under Alert Level 2, outdoor assembly is allowed at 70 percent capacity as long as the minimum health standards are observed.
Aside from causing traffic congestion, some caravans and motorcades have been observed to be filled by people who do not adhere to health protocols such as physical distancing.
Based on the calendar of activities released by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the start of the campaign period is on Feb. 8, 2022 for national candidates and March 25 for local candidates.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is leaving it up to the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court to decide on the plea of detained Senator Leila M. De Lima to record campaign materials from her detention cell in her bid for re-election in the 2022 polls.
But Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra defended the DOJ prosecutors’ objection to De Lima’s plea, saying they were just performing their duty.
“The prosecutors of the DOJ discharge their duty professionally and without regard to the status of the accused,” Guevarra stressed.
“Let’s now leave it to the court to rule on the issue. We trust that the court will apply existing rules concerning persons under detention fairly and uniformly,” he said.
De Lima has pending non-bailable criminal cases before the Muntinlupa City for her alleged involvement in the proliferation of the illegal drugs trading at the New Bulibid Prison.
The detained senator asked the RTC to allow her campaign team to take her photos and videos inside her detention quarters at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City from Dec. 27 to 30.
Prosecutor General Benedicto A. Malcontento stressed that the prosecutors are just doing their routine job.
“But we will respect what the court would say,” Malcontento said.
According to De Lima, she needed the photos and the videos for her campaign materials when the official campaign period starts.
However, De Lima said DOJ prosecutors have blocked her move before the RTC and accused her of “asking for special treatment and that the fact of my being charged already sets me below the standards reserved by society for upright citizens.”
De Lima argued the law allows her to run for re-election and that there is no law that prohibits her campaign.
“This is the height of prosecutorial persecution being perpetrated by the DOJ Panel of Prosecutors. I am already at a disadvantage as it is, campaigning from jail due to the fake charges and evidence fabricated by the DOJ, only to be further prevented from recording materials for my legitimate bid for re-election,” she said.
“I am not asking for freedom to campaign outside of prison. That the DOJ would oppose a simple request for the taking of campaign video and audio inside prison is plain proof of an unfair election practice being perpetrated by the government, especially now that Duterte is also vying for a senatorial post,” she added. With Rey E. Requejo