By Chito Chavez
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and environmental group EcoWaste Coalition have asked all political aspirants seeking public office to honor the sanctity of the “Traslacion”, or the procession marking the Feast of the Black Nazarene, by not using it as a platform for their pre-mature campaigning for the May 2019 mid-term elections.
Branding them as “epalitikos”(a merger of the words “epal” or “attention-seeker” and “pulítiko” or “politician”), the two groups said political wannabees should not take advantage of the millions of Catholic faithful who are expected at the feast of the Black Nazarene on January 9 to promote their candidacies to gain political mileage.
“We appeal to the sense of delicadeza of national and local poll candidates not to turn the Traslacion into a campaigning event. Please do not take advantage of the loopholes in the premature campaigning law to plug your candidacy during the mammoth feast of the Black Nazarene. Premature campaigning is wrong and well-meaning politicians should not engage in it,” said Comelec spokesman Director James Jimenez.
“We urge our politicians to show respect to the time-honored commemoration of the Traslacion by not putting up tarpaulins and distributing leaflets and other promotional materials, which will only turn into ugly litter. Epalitikos, please restrain yourselves. Traslacion is not the time to draw attention to yourselves,” added Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
The EcoWaste Coalition, a Quezon City based waste and pollution watch group, expressed fears that premature campaigning will only worsen the habitual littering that has tainted the annual re-enactment of the “Traslacion for many years’’.
Some 385 tons of mixed garbage were hauled from Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park to the Quiapo district during the traditional “Pahalik” and the six-kilometer procession in 2018 compared to the 341 tons collected in 2017, according to the Manila City Government.
If politicians cannot help it, Alejandre suggested that they should offer food and water to the devotees in reusable containers (not in single-use plastic and polystyrene disposables), which could be retrieved, washed and reused.
He added the political candidates should also support the deployment of volunteers along the processional route to help with the anti-littering drive and clean-up.
Jimenez said the official campaign period for senatorial candidates and for party list groups will run from February 12 to May 11, 2019 while the campaign period for members of the House of Representatives and elective regional, provincial, city and municipal posts will start on March 30 and end on May 11, 2019.
He added that campaigning will be prohibited on March 28 (Maundy Thursday) and March 29 (Good Friday).
“We urge all candidates not to campaign outside the official campaign period, and to be always mindful of the environmental impact of their campaigning activities,” Jimenez said.