By Leslie Ann Aquino and Aaron Recuenco
The election period for the May, 2019 national and local polls officially starts today, January 13, and ends on June 12, 2019.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman James Jimenez reminded aspirants for elective posts that the campaign period will only start on February 12 for national candidates, and March 29 for local candidates.
During the election period, the gun ban will be imposed in which it is prohibited to bear, carry, or transport firearms or other deadly weapons.
It is also prohibited to employ, avail, or engage the services of security personnel or bodyguards.
“It is likewise prohibited to transport and deliver firearms and/or its parts, ammunition, and/or its components, and explosives and/or its components unless duly authorized by the Comelec,” said the poll body.
Violation of these prohibited acts shall constitute an election offense which carries with it a punishment of one to six years imprisonment, disqualification to hold public office, and deprivation of the right to suffrage.
During the gun ban, Director General Oscar Albayalde, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, said processing of licenses for gun owners will also be suspended.
Albayalde said the PNP will also provide security personnel to politicians who would need protection during the election campaign.
“We have Commission on Elections (Comelec) exemptions for the security details of those politicians who applied for one but they will be in uniform because they will be carrying firearms,” Albayalde said.
During the election period, all licenses to carry firearms outside the residence will be suspended. Only members of the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation, and other law enforcement units who are on duty will be issued written permits by the Comelec to carry firearms.
Aside from the gun ban, the alteration of territory of a precinct or establishment of a new precinct; the transfer or movement of officers and employees in the civil service; the use of security personnel or bodyguards by candidates, unless authorized in writing by the Commission; the organization or maintenance of reaction forces, strike forces or other similar forces, and suspension of elective local officials are also prohibited from January 13, 2019 to June 12, 2019.
Other prohibited acts during the election period include: the giving of donations or gift in cash or in kind; as well as the appointment or use of special policemen, confidential agents and the like. This prohibition will be in effect between February 12, 2019 and May 13, 2019.
The release of prisoners will also be restricted between March 14, 2019 and June 12, 2019.
The following actions shall also be suspended or restricted from March 29, 2019 to May 13, 2019: Appointment or hiring new employees, creation or filling up of new positions; promotion or giving of salary increases, remuneration or privilege; construction of public works, delivery of materials for public works, and issuance of treasury warrant or similar devices for a future undertaking chargeable against public funds; release, disbursement or expenditures of public funds.
Campaigning abroad shall be allowed between April 13, 2019 and May 13, 2019.
On May 12, 2019 campaigning; selling, furnishing, offering, buying, serving, or taking intoxicating liquor; giving, accepting, free transportation, food or drinks or things of value will not be allowed.
Campaigning; selling, furnishing, offering, buying, serving, or taking intoxicating liquor; giving, accepting, free transportation, food or drinks or things of value; voting more than once or in substitution of another; soliciting votes or undertaking any propaganda for or against any candidate or any political party within the polling place or within 30 meters thereof; opening of booths or stalls for the sale, etc., of merchandise or refreshments within a radius of 30 meters from the polling place; holding of fairs, cockfights, boxing, horse races or any other similar sports will be also be prohibited on May 13, 2019.
And with the start of the election period, Jimenez expects to see an increase in the presence or visibility of candidates.
“A lot of politicians will start taking advantage of this particular time, if they haven’t already been doing so,” Jimenez said in a press briefing in Manila, Friday.
“Because it’s within the election period, within the time that you expect people to talk about the elections, but it’s still outside of the campaign period, which means they still have about a month’s time before they can be actually regulated,” he added.
“The problem with doing this prior to the election period is that it becomes sort of very obvious that you are prematurely campaigning and some people shy away from that. But when you enter the election period, a sort of psychological barrier is lifted because well its election period,” said Jimenez.
Meanwhile, the PNP said hundreds of checkpoints and chokepoints are expected to be set up around the country as part of the election security for the midterm elections.
Albayalde said there would be more checkpoints that would be established in the coming days within the 150-day election period.
“At past midnight tonight (January 13), the Philippine National Police will establish strong checkpoints in strategic locations across the country to intercept guns, explosives and other instruments of violence including illegal security personnel that may mar the holding of peaceful, credible and fair midterm elections in May,” said Albayalde.
Albayalde said his order for the establishment of simultaneous checkpoint operations is contained in the memorandum he issued for all police commanders nationwide.
The memorandum mandates police commanders to establish at least one checkpoint in each of the country’s 1,600 cities and municipalities in coordination with the local Comelec officer and AFP territorial unit in the area.