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Opinion

EDITORIAL - Where’s the law vs epal?

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Where�s the law vs epal?

With a year to go before the midterm elections, public spaces are again being littered with billboards, posters and streamers of politicians, bearing messages to the public using any flimsy excuse, such as greetings on little known occasions, or even advising motorists to drive carefully. In some areas, incumbent officials together with their families have their massive billboards greeting the public a merry Christmas, which are never taken down throughout the year.

The most brazen are those who are in office, who plaster their faces and names on the walls of government buildings and public schools and display their streamers and billboards of all sizes on electric posts and trees. There are still billboards on display of politicians thanking the public for their election two years ago.

During the campaign period, it is prohibited to display campaign materials on trees, lampposts or any spot outside common poster areas designated by the Commission on Elections. Such materials may be displayed on private property with the consent of the owner.

But why should the prohibition not be valid outside the campaign period? Trees are damaged by such materials. Private citizens pay considerable amounts to display any material in public spaces, and the allowed display areas are strictly regulated by the local government unit or barangay, which collects advertising fees. Why should government officials be exempted from such fees and restrictions?

The Comelec has said it has no jurisdiction over such displays outside the campaign period. Some other national agency should step in, to enforce laws against littering and on environmental protection.

Lawmakers can also pass an expanded law against epal, to include a specific prohibition against such displays of self-promoting materials. Probably because lawmakers themselves and their relatives are among those who feel entitled to display such materials, the proposed epal law has languished in Congress since the late senator Miriam Defensor Santiago pushed for it.

The 2021 General Appropriations Act included a provision against epal or those using government resources and programs for self-promotion. As the Anti-Red Tape Authority warned at the time, the provision prohibited both elected and appointed government officials from placing their names and photos on documents like permits and licenses and other services or goods, or taking undue credit for programs and projects funded under the GAA.

This ban should be institutionalized and expanded to include posters, streamers and billboards of politicians in public spaces. Apart from leveling the political playing field, it will reduce pollution of such public spaces.

vuukle comment

LAW

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