COMELEC joined forces with CSC in the issuance of an advisory on electioneering or partisan political activities. I am referring to COMELEC-CSC Joint Circular 01 s. 2016 dated March 29, 2016. At first glance, COMELEC-CSC Joint Circular 001 s. 2016 appears to be just a reiteration of previous CSC Memorandum Circulars reminding government officials and employees holding non-political positions of the prohibition from engaging directly or indirectly in any partisan political activity.
But it is not what it seems. Yup, there were major changes! It bears noting that in Yatco vs. Santos, G.R. No. L-16133, the Supreme Court is plain that “elective officials” are not covered by the prohibition against engaging in electioneering or partisan political activities for practical reasons and in view of the nature of positions and responsibility.
To recall, partisan political activity refers to any act designed to promote the election or defeat of a particular candidate or party to public office. Does that mean that elective officials at all levels can engage in electioneering or partisan political activities?
It does not appear so. Item 14 of COMELEC-CSC Joint Circular 001 s. 2016 is explicit that elective officials EXCEPT BARANGAY OFFICIALS are not outside the coverage of prohibition against electioneering or partisan political activities. Simply, elective barangay officials are therefore barred from partisan political activities. To quote COMELEC Chair Juan Andres Bautista: “They should be neutral in the way they provide services to their constituents. And they are not supposed to belong to any political party.”
I carefully selected some items of COMELEC-CSC Joint Circular 01 s. 2016 which may guide the government officials, including barangay officials, of some prohibited acts considered as electioneering or partisan political activities. Take note of the words “consistent”, “continuous”, “wearing”, “government resources”, “job orders” and “contract of services”.
Here are some of the prohibited electioneering acts:
- Consistent presence in political rallies, caucuses of, and continuous companionship with certain political candidates and/or political party in said political activities, causing the employee to be closely identified with such candidate and/or with political party.
- Wearing of t-shirts or pins, caps or any similar election paraphernalia bearing the names of the candidates or political party except authorized by the COMELEC.
- Utilizing government resources such as personnel including job orders or contract of service hirees, time and properties for political purposes.
For social media warriors or the so called “facebookers” or “instagramers”, the Circular allows you to rejoice a little bit as it cited acts not considered as partisan political activities, to wit:
“Social media functions such as “liking”, commenting, “sharing”, re-posting, or following a candidate’s or party’s account, unless these are resorted as an means to solicit support for or against a candidate or party during the campaign period.”