Archive for the ‘The Campaign’ Category

Last minute
May 12, 2007

Everyone knows this already, but just in case you’re one of those who don’t know …

On May 13, bawal ang:

  • Campaigning – which is defined as any act designed to promote the election or defeat of a particular candidate/s;
  • Selling, furnishing, offering, buying, serving, or taking intoxicating liquor – also known as the liquor ban; and
  • Giving, accepting free transportation food, drinks, and things of value

On May 14, bawal ang:

All of the above, PLUS

  • Soliciting votes or undertaking any propaganda for or against any candidate or any political party within the polling
    place or within thirty (30) meters thereof – which makes most people think that if partisans distribute their sample ballots outside the school where voting is taking place, then there is no violation. I disagree. Those who distribute their sample ballots in the polling places, on the other hand, are still campaigning which, lo and behold!, is also prohibited.
  • Voting more than once or in substitution of another – also known as flying voting and identity theft
  • Holding of fairs, cockfights, boxing, horse races or similar; sports; and
  • Opening of booths or stalls for the sale, etc., of merchandise or refreshments within a radius of thirty meters from the polling place

Gonzales our Bulworth?
April 26, 2007

Technically, I don’t think any law has been violated by the Secretary of Justice’s claim that he would give monetary rewards to baranggay captains who manage a 12-0 victory for TU in their respective jurisdictions. First, the offer seems not to have been made to voters to influence them to vote straight for TU; rather the offer was made to people who could convince enough people to vote straight.

And so the word ‘incentive’ makes its entry into the country’s electoral lexicon.

The crux of the matter is the definition of vote buying. Under the law, a vote is bought if a person gives or promises to give a valuable consideration – such as money, employment, or anything of value – in order to influence a voter to abstain or to vote for or against a certain candidate. My reading of Gonzales’ statement was that he made no such offer.

What he offered, if you were to study the situation objectively, was a reward – or, yes, an incentive – to people to convince other people to vote a certain way, in effect making these people ‘campaign workers’ after a fashion. And, of course, campaign workers may receive things like salaries and bonuses.

Having said that, I still think that the statements in question leave a bad taste in the mouth. Not all that glitters is gold, Tolkien wrote. And not all that is technically legal is right.

At bottom, this is a question of propriety. Was it proper for the Secretary of Justice to make that statement? I find it hard to say yes; easier, in fact, would be to admit that this whole surreal situation reminds me of Bulworth, especially considering Gonzales’ subsequent statements to the effect that he was merely being pragmatic.  Except, of course, that Bulworth reaps admiration for his candor.

Bulworth movie poster

Still on elections, the NTC once again announces that the COMELEC has no rules for SMS.

Yes, the COMELEC has not come up with rules regulating SMS campaigning, but I believe we have explained our position on this many times in the past. So, just to recap very briefly:

There are two ways to use SMS as a campaign tool. One is through mass broadcasts – called SMS blasts (or something suitably muscular and buzz-wordy) – which are already amply regulated by NTC’s anti-spamming rules; and the other is through text brigades – which involves individuals sending text messages to other people who forward these messages to other people and so on.

This second method that NTC does not regulate and for very good reason. With the proliferation of  pre-paid SIM cards, it is nearly impossible to find out who sent a specific message. Let’s not even touch the issue of whether a text message is a form of free speech; if you can’t find the originator, who are you going to hold responsible for violating election laws?

And besides, think about it: if the NTC – the body specifically tasked to look out for these things – cannot regulate person-to-person texting, how can the COMELEC? Seriously.

Having said that (yet again), let me ask this question: what is wrong with sending campaign messages via SMS?

Does it promote or predispose to runaway spending, such that it would skew the playing field in favor of rich candidates? At one peso a pop, spread out over several levels in the pyramid like texting scheme, you’re looking at a very minor expenditure. A person who sends a ‘Vote for ME!’ message to ten people spends only ten pesos; and so does each of the ten original recipients when they each forward the same message to ten of their friends and so on. So no, SMS campaigning does not predispose to runaway spending, nor skew the playing field.

Does an SMS campaign constitute an invasion of privacy perhaps? Well, maybe. But it isn’t anywhere near as intrusive as telemarketers calling you in the middle of the working day to offer you a three week subscription to some banal newsletter or other. And it isn’t as annoying as those television ads that show up on t.v. just as Gil Grissom is about to get the perp. So, if you receive a text message or five, from a private number, telling you to vote for someone, suck it up!

Naturally, if the messages are clearly machine generated – as when it comes from a 4-digit number – then report to the NTC. Their anti-spam laws cover that situation, much better than either the Omnibus Election Code or the Fair Elections Act – neither of which even contain the word “cellular” anywhere in their hundreds of pages.

So, SMS campaigns aren’t that expensive, and they generally aren’t that intrusive. Why then, should they be regulated? If the annoyance of a handful of people who received messages from candidates they loathe is the only basis for such regulation, then there is no basis at all.  Just don’t vote for them, dudes.

A serious matter
April 24, 2007

Some party-list groups (some call them leftist, they call themselves progressive) have distributed copies of “an alleged confidential memorandum that was purportedly submitted to President Arroyo by assistant secretary Marcelo Fariñas of Malacañang’s Office of External Affairs (OEM) on alleged plans to give some party-list groups financial support to counter plans by left-leaning sectoral organizations to impeach the President.” 

On being told of this document, COMELEC Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento is said to have characterized it as “a serious matter,” which he would bring up before the Commission en banc.

Well, of course it’s a serious matter. What makes me shake my head in disbelief is how the drumbeaters of that supposedly secret missive have latched on to Sarmiento’s words and are using it to try to steamroll the COMELEC into launching an investigation on the strength of nothing more than an unsubstantiated accusation.

According to the Philippine STAR:

“Even if we don’t file the Comelec can probe this motu propio since (Commissioner) Sarmiento says this is a serious matter… But in order to clear their names I think that conducting an investigation motu propio will be a good gesture on their part,” (Gabriela Representative Liza) Masa said. 

And the accusation will remain unsubstantiated until someone comes forward and presents the COMELEC with this document and proves that it is authentic. To treat this differently would mean that all you have to do to call down the dogs of law enforcement on someone is to float the idea that that person has done something wrong. And that’s what the drum beaters seems to want: to be able to make the accusation and not stand behind it and be accountable for a possible case of bearing false witness. That goes against every principle of due process and the presumption of innocence that is the bedrock of our justice system.

So why doesn’t Gabriela just file the petition? Only they can answer that. If they’re so sure of their accusation, why give the COMELEC the chance to “clear” its name? Why not just go for the jugular since this is such a ‘serious’ and damning piece of evidence if true? Why give the COMELEC the opportunity to perform a “good gesture?” I doubt that their generous dangling of an opportunity for greatness is motivated by a love of the COMELEC; methinks its because this document may turn out to be nothing more than an updated version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. And how can we prove it isn’t unless someone actually presents it to the COMELEC in a formal petition?

Other news …

De Castro: 12-0 target just a ‘gimmick.’ Ya’think?! If it were an indication that the fix is on, you’d have to accept the idea that everyone on Team Unity is an idiot who agrees that hinting at a sweep will not give away the plot to cheat. C’mon! Does this mean, then, that every time a championship basketball team declares that it will sweep the series that the outcome will have been rigged? Does the word ‘bravado’ not ring a bell with anyone anymore?

“ ‘If the military will remove or destroy our posters, what will happen to us? That is not fair,’ (Antonio Trillanes IV’s spokesman Sonny) Rivera said.” From the strictly election campaign rules point of view, there is nothing wrong with tearing down any candidate’s posters if they are outside the common poster areas. It can be said, therefore, that compliance with the common poster areas rule is one way of ensuring that campaign materials stay up.

2 party-list groups defy Comelec, name nominees. Defy? What would they be defying the COMELEC for if the COMELEC never prohibited party-list groups from revealing the names of their own nominees? What the COMELEC says is that it won’t divulge the names of the nominees. That says nothing about preventing others from telling all and sundry who their nominees are. This, I think, is a great example of how a bad headline can skew an entire article.

Oh and, a lot of pundits and pundit-wannabes are bandying around this theory that the reason for the COMELEC’s stand on party-list nominees is because Abalos’ brother is with a party-list group. Duh? How can the reason for keeping the nominees ‘secret’ be to prevent people from knowing about Abalos’ brother, when everyone knows it already? Remember how when Ellen deGeneres said “I’m gay,” the near universal reaction was “We know?” Yeah. This is exactly the same thing.

Joselito Cayetano disqualified and other news
March 27, 2007


Not much need to say anything beyond that. However, just to provide a bit more detail:

  • Joselito Cayetano was disqualified as a nuisance candidate by the COMELEC 1st Division.
  • Joselito Cayetano was called a nuisance candidate because it is clear that he does not have any capacity to conduct a nationwide campaign. The 1st Division took into consideration Joselito Cayetano’s financial circumstances and the fact that he was relying almost exclusively on KBL – the political party which allegedly nominated him, but whose top leadership has recently ‘disowned’ him.
  • Joselito Cayetano may still appeal the ruling of the Division, thus the disqualification still is not final.
  • In the meantime, considering that the disqualification may still be overturned on reconsideration, Mr. Joselito Cayetano’s name will remain on the Certified List of Candidates for Senators (for the 2007 National and Local Elections).

In other news …

The Certified List of Candidates for Senators (for the 2007 NLE) has been released. The candidates in the list are:

  1. Angara, Edgardo
  2. Aquino, Noynoy*
  3. Arroyo, Joker
  4. Bautista, Martin
  5. Cantal, Felix
  6. Cayetano, Alan Peter**
  7. Cayetano, Joselito***
  8. Chavez, Melchor
  9. Coseteng, Nikki
  10. Defensor, Mike
  11. Enciso, Ruben
  12. Escudero, Chiz
  13. Estrella, Antonio
  14. Gomez, Richard
  15. Honasan, Gringo
  16. Kiram, Jamalul
  17. Lacson, Ping
  18. Legarda, Loren
  19. Lozano, Oliver
  20. Magsaysay, Vic
  21. Montano, Cesar
  22. Oreta, Tessie
  23. Orpilla, Ed
  24. Osmena, John
  25. Pangilinan, Kiko*
  26. Paredes, Zosimo
  27. Pichay, Prospero
  28. Pimentel, Koko
  29. Recto, Ralph
  30. Roco, Sonia
  31. Singson, Chavit
  32. Sison, Adrian
  33. Sotto, Tito
  34. Trillanes, Antonio
  35. Villar, Manuel
  36. Wood, Victor
  37. Zubiri, Juan Miguel

* – Official Party nomination shall be subject to the outcome of GR Nos. 174992 and 175546, now pending before the Supreme Court.

** – Subject to a pending disqualification case, docketed as SPA 07-023

*** – Subject to pending disqualification cases, docketed as SPA 07-017 and 07-018

Also …

The Certified List of Party List Organizations participating in the elections has also been released. The following appear on that list:

  1. 1-UTAK
  3. AT
  7. ABONO
  9. ADD
  12. AGBIAG!
  14. AGAP
  15. AHON
  17. APOI
  19. AKSA
  20. ALAGAD
  22. ABC
  23. ANAD
  24. AAWAS
  25. ANC
  26. APO
  27. ARC
  29. AVE
  30. ATS
  31. ALMANA
  32. AKAPIN
  33. AGHAM
  34. ASAP
  35. ABA-AKO
  36. AN WARAY
  37. AMIN
  40. AG
  41. ALIF
  42. A SMILE
  44. ANAK
  45. ABS
  46. AMANG
  48. AAPS
  49. APEC
  50. BABAE KA
  51. BAGOI
  52. BATAS
  53. BTM
  55. BANAT
  57. BIGKIS
  58. BP
  60. BUHAY
  61. CIBAC
  64. GRECON
  66. DIWA
  68. HAPI
  71. KALAHI
  72. KAKUSA
  74. KASAPI
  75. BUTIL
  76. NELFFI
  77. PM
  78. PMAP
  79. PBA
  80. SM
  82. SPI
  83. SUARA
  84. SB
  85. BANTAY
  86. TUCP
  87. UMDJ
  88. UNI-MAD
  89. VFP
  90. YACAP
  91. LYPAD

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. That’s 91 PL groups participating.

Look ma! No drugs!
February 21, 2007

The following candidates for Senator have submitted the results of their drug tests:

  1. Zubiri, Juan Miguel
  2. Coseteng, Ana Dominique
  3. Osmena, John Henry
  4. Pangilinan, Francis
  5. Recto, Ralph
  6. Defensor, Michael
  7. Magsaysay, Vicente
  8. Cayetano, Alan Peter
  9. Villar, Manuel

On the street
February 15, 2007

Feb 14 turned out to be a very event-filled day, after all.

Before starting out

At about 11 pm, COMELEC Chairman Abalos, accompanied by elements of the PNP and some members of the media (and me), started on a roadtrip that would end up with about nine people apprehended for violating the Fair Elections Act.

Out of Mandaluyong, Abalos’ convoy turned onto EDSA on the way to Quezon Avenue. The length of EDSA that we traversed was pretty clean. Q.Ave was the same, except for the Pantranco stretch where we saw posters promoting the party-list group AMIN.

We went down Q.Ave all the way to Espana. Espana, it seemed, was Sonia Roco country. But I saw Loren Legarda there too.

Loren’s pink bordered poster

Then left into Forbes Avenue – Lacson Avenue now, I think – which was Mike Defensor’s poster stomping ground. Poster after poster of Defensor holding what seemed to me like rolled up blueprints (he has designs on our future?) lined the pillars of the Nagtahan overpass.

Left into Magsaysay avenue, we encountered posters of Kiko Pangilinan, Ping Lacson, and more Defensor. On and on we drove, pulling a train of media carrying vehicles behind us: PDI, the Philippine Star, RPN, ABSCBN, and so on. We were a convoy of white pick-ups and FXs, led by a shining black Chairman-mobile.

We went up Aurora boulevard and on into Marikina. A quick u-turn and we were suddenly on Katipunan, going into old Balara. And that was where we made the first apprehension. Two guys ( a third managed to run away) putting up posters for Kasangga Party-List were caught with sticky fingers – literally.

They were taken to the Policy Community P – something. I forget. I only remember that the place was called the PCP, which made me snigger. I mean, cops holding office at a place called PCP? Hahaha. If ytou don’t get it, sori ka.

From there, Abalos told me to take the lead. No pressure, but he wanted to make more apprehensions and I had to find him some. So I led the convoy to Kamuning then up Xavierville Avenue (Road?) where we found the second group of gooks.

At first, Cha and my driver – Peter – thought that it was just a bunch of people taking out the trash. But the fact that there were rolled up things on top of their white pick up and two huge plastic containers full of black goo in the back tipped us off, so we pulled up and accosted them.

The driver was belligerent at first, but the sight of a visibly riled Abalos, the glare of tv camera spotlights, and armed PNP officers swooping down on him convinced him to adopt a more cooperative attitude. When we saw that the posters he had were of Mike Defensor, well, Abalos just shook his head in disbelief.

After that, Abalos was ready to turn in, so we started the long drive to Libis – the only place where we had any hope of finding an open coffee-shop where we could hold a de-briefing for our media friends. On the way there, we spotted yet another group. So, the whole convoy once again descended on the violators who received a stern talking-to from Abalos.

When we finally made it to Libis, we invaded a coffee shop and held an impromptu press con where Abalos pretty much dropped the gauntlet to politicians: don’t test us, he said.

Let’s see if they do.

A note about the pictures: I wish I had more. 

Overseas Absentee Internet Voting
January 25, 2007

The COMELEC Committee on Overseas Absentee Voting is looking to roll out internet voting in Singapura. To ensure that anyone with anything to say about this project is given the opportunity to do so, I’ve put up a blog called (surprise, surprise!) Overseas Absentee Internet Voting. You can click on that or you can just go to

SMS and Internet Campaigning
January 24, 2007

The COMELEC has a novel question before it: what to do about SMS and internet campaigning. Without pretending that this will be a comprehensive answer to that question … let me dispose of the easy half of that question first.

Can we do anything about internet campaigning? NO, we cannot.

The problem with the internet is not as simple as watching over public spaces and preventing or penalizing people who put up ads in those spaces. For one thing, we don’t even have that good a definition of what constitutes ‘public space’ on the ‘net. While it may be theoretically possible to regulate the creation of websites (the registration of the domain name and the cost of designing, putting up, and maintaining the website are susceptible to valuation, i.e., we know how much all of that costs) by simply mandating that their cost be part of the spending quota (which, by the way, is now just a theoretical thing), the thing with internet campaigning is that the website itself is not the most crucial element of the campaign. The real value of the site, i.e., how well the site can benefit your candidacy, is in how many other sites link to it and how high up does the site appear on search engine results.

Not to mention the fact that cyberspace is littered with online journals like this one. How can the COMELEC control the content of these blogs without infringing on the bloggers freedom of expression? Just thinking about it gives me a headache. After all, policing the internet is something that escapes even the acknowledged experts all over the world, how can we have better success? All told, I think that we’re still a long way off from being able to effectively regulate the internet as a campaign arena.

SMS may not be much easier.

One of the strengths of SMS as a propaganda tool is that it is cheap, it is anonymous, and it provides a window into nearly 90% of the  population. And the NTC regulations on the matter – NTC MC 03-03-2005 and NTC MC 03-03-2005-A – only deal with bulk messaging systems. It’s a safe bet that political operators will not be using these bulk messaging services – Info-text type things – precisely because those damned things are regulated. Political operators will be sticking to prepaid cards that are practically a dime-a-dozen and set-up their own adhoc ‘text’ brigades.

These text brigades are composed of a core of hard-core believers who receive a template message from their agit-prop maker and just pass it on to everyone in their phonebooks. With a core group of even 10 people, each with an average a hundred contacts in their phonebooks, that ad hoc text brigade can reach, at the cost of one peso (or whatever the going rate for SMS is) , a thousand others. It’s like multi-level-marketing on meth.

Not that I’m giving anyone any funny ideas, but that’s how it is. How can the COMELEC regulate that sort of thing? If anyone has any idea on how it can be done, let us know.  I may be totally against any sort of regulation being slapped on SMS and internet campaigning, but that doesn’t mean the COMELEC will just fall in line behind me.

So, again, you think my ideas are ass-backward, tell me. I’ll appreciate it.

January 21, 2007

Now seems as good a time as any to talk about the campaign period heading our way at breakneck speed. More specifically, let me talk about premature campaigning and political broadcast adverts.

Premature Campaigning

We’ve been all over the news and though very few seem willing to verbalize it, the perception I guess is that the COMELEC is ducking it’s responsibility to control the seemingly uncontrollable urge of politicians to plaster the town with their faces and cheesy grins. Copping out, is how Jarius Bondoc called it, I think.

While I can see exactly why the COMELEC cannot legally compel these jokers to tear down their posters, much less stop them from putting up new ones before they file their certificates of candidacy, I always had difficulty accepting that there was nothing we could do.

Things came to a head for me several days ago when I read three different news stories about how three different people had brazenly declared that they would run for office. These three people, not surprisingly, are among the people whose faces I see all over the place, grinning benevolently at all the little people … la-dee-da. When I read that they had announced to all and sundry that they would be throwing their hats into the ring (not really a big surprise), I immediately got the urge to tear down their posters and smack them upside their heads.

The reason the COMELEC hasn’t been going after these people is that they aren’t officially candidates yet, them not having filed their certificates of candidacy. However, a certificate of candidacy is really nothing more than a categorical declaration that the person filing it will seek public office. To my mind, standing is some plaza or sitting in some coffee shop knowing full well that everyone’s eyes and ears are on you, and announcing that you will be running for office is just as categorical a declaration as filing a COC. Therefore, I reasoned, a person who has performed this ‘constructive’ filing of a COC should already be subject to the rules that apply to candidates; the actual filing of the COC then, would just be a formality.

If the rule were otherwise (which, tragically, it is) then these worthies who have declared their intention to run can very easily circumvent the campaign rules by refusing to file their COCs til the very last day (12 Feb for Senators and PL; 30 Mar for everyone else) and embarking on a poster orgy in the meantime. Libreng kampanya taken to absurd lengths. As I said, I have a big-ass problem with that.

But then again, the law may suck, but it is the law. So, legally – TECHNICALLY – these worthies are still beyond our reach. However, I think that where the law so obviously fails, we ought to take the bull by the horns and get creative – of course without violating the law ourselves.

My proposal, therefore, is this: the COMELEC should ask every politician who has gone on record – with the media, mostly – as intending to run should immediately take down his posters and refrain from putting up new ones until the start of the election period. I’m thinking shame campaign (which might not work since the success of a shame campaign is predicated on the subject of the campaign having the capacity for shame), or it’s slightly more politically correct cousin, a campaign of moral suasion.

However, considering the need for the COMELEC to remain strictly neutral, it would be exceedingly difficult to conduct such a shame campaign while maintaining the kind of objectivity we need to preserve. The solution, I think, lies with the youth and advocacy groups. After all, these pols are just courting votes. Think of it as an exercise in consumer power.

When people stop buying a product – or protest enough about a product – the manufacturers slow down. If the protest continues long enough, the manufacturer just ups and stops making the product altogether. Maybe we can do the same. Maybe we can tell these pols that their circumvention of the law will lose them votes. Maybe that sort of thing will knock some sense into them.

I don’t know how well this plan will work – from a distance, it sounds naive, even to me – but short of amending the law, there really isn’t much we can do.

Political Broadcast Adverts

My other pet peeve. There’s this law (RA 9006) that says candidates can have a maximum of 120 minutes worth of political TV broadcast advertising. Now, this has always been interpreted to mean an aggregate of 120 minutes worth of adverts on all channels. Now there is a school of thought that believes the COMELEC ought to interpret it to mean a maximum of 120 minutes worth per station.

SO, under the traditional interpretation, the equation would be [120 divided by (number of tv stations)]. Lets call this the ‘aggregate’ interpretation. Under the other – let’s call it ‘liberal’ – interpretation the expression would be [120 per station].

Now, the reason the COMELEC prefers the aggregate rule is that it prevents the moneyed politico from overwhelming the poorer politico with TV ads, and forces the moneyed politico into more or less the same footing as the poor guy.

Think of it this way. Politician A has 15 million clams to spend, and B has only 10. TV ads costs 5 million each. A good ground campaign also costs 5 million. Under the liberal rule, A can buy two ads and still have money left over for a good ground campaign; whereas B can afford only one ad and a good ground campaign. Even taking for granted that these two pols stayed within the spending limits, it is clear that without the cap provided by the aggregate rule, Politico A can easily clobber B by simply spending more on TV ads than B can ever hope to match.

But, adherents of the liberal rule argue, even if politico A can only spend 5 million on TV ads, he’d still have twice as much money for a ground campaign than B does. True enough, but what they forget is that with a ground campaign, lack of money can be made up for by good connections and the kindness of strangers. The same can’t be said of TV advertising where the bottom line is always money – the cost of an advert. So, under the aggregate rule, B has a far better chance of matching A’s campaign since A is forced to spend more money on the ground campaign; money which B can match for effect with better connections and better campaign strategies.

Flustered by this argument, the adherents of the liberal rule shift their attack to: “but it is the COMELEC’s duty to make sure that the public’s right to be informed is protected, and mass media is the best way of keeping the public informed.” The implication, of course, is that the COMELEC should make sure that candidates are allowed to make practically unlimited used of broadcast because that’s the best way to promote themselves; and that if the aggregate rule were to be followed, we would be depriving the candidate of access to that most powerful of media: TV.

Nonsense. The overarching mandate of the COMELEC is not to ensure that politicos get access to the best possible means to promote themselves, but to guarantee that no candidate gets an undue advantage over another. In fact,if you want to pursue that to its logical end, the COMELEC should make sure that financial resources should not be allowed to be the deciding factor in the effectivity of a campaign – to do so would be tantamount to tilting the scales in favor of the rich, and that would be practically imposing a property requirement for candidacy.

But what about the people’s right to be informed? The people’s right to be informed can be served even without politicians flooding the airwaves with their political messages. Seriously. I don’t know where these people get off insinuating that TV is the only way to inform the people.

And as for the candidate’s right to use his money to his greatest advantage, sure, he has that right. But that right is by no means absolute. That right is subject to reasonable regulation, meant to achieve a legitimate end. And that is exactly what the aggregate rule: a reasonable regulation – because it merely limits access to broadcast advertising without oppresively eliminating all access meant to achieve a legitimate end – a level playing field for those who can afford, and those who can hardly afford.