THE Commission on Elections said the election period for the May midterm polls will start on Sunday, placing the country under a firearms ban and likely inspiring an increase of candidate visibility even before the campaign season officially kicks off.
Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said 12 senators, members of the House of Representatives and local government officials will be elected in the May 13 elections.
“The start of the election period is the official start of election fever,” he said.
Jimenez said Filipinos voting from abroad, numbering to 1.7 million, can vote either in person or by post, and their votes will be counted either manually or by vote-counting machine.
The Comelec will open ballots from areas under a postal voting system starting April 13, he said.
The poll body official said Comelec checkpoints will be put up beginning midnight of January 13 and carrying firearms and deadly weapons will be prohibited unless owners who face “verified” threats to their safety secure exemption.
He added the official campaign period will not start until February 13, and while premature campaigning is not illegal, Jimenez said the Comelec will advise candidates to take down campaign materials that have already been posted two or three days before the campaign period begins.
“You will be informed of the materials that you need to take down and you need to take them down regardless of their size and location. Let’s start the campaign period with a relatively clean environment,” the spokesman said.
If campaign materials that violate Comelec rules remain after the start of the campaign period, it will be presumed that it is remaining there with the consent of the candidate himself.
“I think 2019 is the year of innovative campaign strategies for sure. Ultimately, as far as the law is concerned, there does not seem to be any sort of fundamental reason for making it more unacceptable than, say, a printed t-shirt,” Jimenez said after briefly discussing how women’s underwear being used as campaign material — which recently went viral online — is “culturally sensitive” compared to other articles of clothing.
The spokesman said as a standard practice, the Comelec has requested the deputization of police and military personnel so they may assist in the elections if necessary.
He said police and military forces will be trained so they can maintain a presence in polling places should they be needed.