University COMELEC gears up for next year’s Election Code revisions
University COMELEC gears up for next year’s Election Code revisions
COMELEC gears up for next year’s Election Code revisions
Tags:
April 28, 2014
Tags:
April 28, 2014

Voters next year may be casting their ballots to the tune of a new set of rules, as COMELEC prepares to revise the Election Code this year in light of complaints regarding the recent General Elections.

 

“Time and time again, we’ve received complaints from the student body regarding candidates failing to abide by rules which, we believe, are common knowledge,” COMELEC chair Kevin Caballas laments,  “Now that we’ve put most of these supposedly implicit rules in writing, we hope that political parties would know how to conduct themselves during next election season.”

Campaign problems

 

An article in The LaSallian’s General Elections special relates that most candidates tend to violate the election code’s provisions on electioneering.

 

As the current election code defines it, electioneering refers to “any act of soliciting votes, pledges or support for or against a candidate or political party not within the specified campaign period.” The act can be personal, but it may extend to social media, where candidates may make use of images, logos and slogans associated with their respective political parties in order to subtly ease into their campaigns.

 

Many students have noted that this form of electioneering has been rampantly occurring especially in widely-used social media platforms. “A number of people approached me in my condominium unit before the onset of the campaign period, offering me food if I voted for their candidate,” relates Denise*.

 

Meanwhile, Bong* says, “A classmate of mine who had been standing in as a campaign officer told me she was willing to invite me over at her condo if I voted for the slate she was supporting through Facebook chat. She hadn’t really been talking to me in any way, until then.”

 

Come campaign period, however, a new array of problems arise, with the issue of overspending being one of the more prominent ones. Caballas rues that given the current election code, not much can be done to hold those who have been accused of overspending accountable, since COMELEC cannot systematically monitor the expenditures all at once.

Outlining the revisions

 

COMELEC intends to make a number of revisions to the present set of rules to resolve these problems. For one, it plans to institute a demerit system, in which certain election code violations will correspond to a number of demerit points. A demerit point corresponds to five votes, and at the end of the election season, the number of votes corresponding to the number of demerit points earned will be deducted from each candidate’s grand total. “This new rule is to keep everyone on their toes, especially regarding electioneering,” comments Caballas.

 

COMELEC likewise plans to set a limit on campaign spending. As of press time, however, the limit has not yet been decided upon. In addition to providing an expenditure ceiling, Caballas promises that in the long-term, COMELEC will have already created a system which will allow the body to monitor campaign expenses. In the meantime, to gauge how much political parties gain from alumni, Caballas shares that donors will be required to course a letter of intent through COMELEC, detailing how much they intend to donate to the party and how much of it will be spent on campaigning, among others.

 

Standard bearers may also be required to render a residency period of two years in their respective political parties under the revised election code in order to avoid turncoatism. Standard bearers are also cautioned to be more selective in placing qualifications in publicity materials, as irrelevant ones, like “Prom King” or “Tapat member” can lead to sanctions. Other minor revisions that are slated for discussion include fixing a pitch for each political party’s sing-song spiels so as to maintain consistency among RTRs and preventing candidates to run for an Executive Board position for two consecutive years.

Mixed reactions

 

The proposals have garnered mixed reactions from the political parties. Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista and Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon, in particular, have been apprehensive towards the proposed revisions.

 

Santugon President Rachel Lucero has called out COMELEC for not establishing formal dialogue with Santugon regarding the matter. She decries, “These new rules were not jointly decided upon by Santugon and COMELEC. We simply can’t approve of these proposed revisions since we were never informed about them.”

 

Meanwhile, Tapat President Jerick Maala has expressed displeasure over the proposed demerit system. “It might lead to rival candidates telling on each other regarding the most minor violations. Simply put, it does not establish healthy competition among parties,” he claims.

 

On the other hand, Movement of Individuals towards Guided and Enlightened Leadership (MIGUEL) founder Migi Moreno has been fine with the revisions thus far. “We can only hope that these revisions get approved for the good of everyone else involved,” he says.