It is now less than two months to go before the filing of candidacy for the 2013 national and local elections. On October 1-5, 2012, more than 170,000 candidates are expected to troop to Comelec offices to manifest their intention to run for the estimated 52,000 positions to be contested. At least 54,000,000 voters have registered with around 40,000,000 expected to vote.
These figures inevitably point to a massive political spectacle when the national and local election campaign formally starts in February 2013 and March 2013, respectively. However, the pre-campaign is already upon us.
Pre-campaigning is when a candidate or prospective candidate behaves and conducts activities in furtherance of his or her candidacy before the campaign period begins. This is banned by the Omnibus Election Code and is considered an election violation. However, the Fair Elections Act and the Automated Elections Systems Law modified this and allowed exceptions. Further, the Supreme Court ruled that a candidate is covered only when he or she files his or her candidacy with the Commission on Elections and that whatever he or she does before the filing is within the ambit of “constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of expression.”
These legal loopholes allows a rich candidate or an incumbent with access to government resources to campaign—at the level of name-recall and image-building usually—in the media, at project implementation and completion, or the usual “kasal, binyag, at libing” (marriage, baptism, and burial).
It is now reaching the level of absurdity—plastering buses, TV commercial ads, and billboards with candidates’ endorsements, primetime TV-radio shows appearances, greet-posters on popular figures’ birthday, town fiestas, and clan reunions, repackaging relief goods with candidate names or naming streets, islands and other public infrastructures after a candidate’s father, and public speaking before big audiences on virtually any topic under the sun. All these were done a year or more before the filing of his or her candidacy.
In many cases, these backfired, particularly among voters who saw through the purely power agenda or corruption behind such expensive activities. An anti-Epal shaming campaign was even launched in the social media network to record these self-serving public displays and condemn shameless pre-campaigning. It called for rejecting these types of candidates.
However, one thing is confirmed by these activities of candidate or prospective candidates: the election fever is on us this early, with still nearly six months to go before the formal campaign period.
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