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Nothing illegal with local bets joining nat'l campaign even before March 29 — Brillantes

(Updated 4:52 p.m.) Local candidates who are joining the rallies of national candidates despite the fact that campaign period for them will not start until March 29 are not violating any rules, Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said Friday. Brillantes said that such practice, though unethical, is covered by the Supreme Court ruling that virtually stated that there is no such thing as premature campaigning. “Hindi bawal magkampanya. They can go up [the stage] together with senatorial [candidates] and campaign. Pwede sila mag-rally araw-araw pero medyo garapal naman yun. [A Supreme Court] ruling says that you become a candidate only at the start of the campaign period so there is no local candidate yet, as of now, officially,” he said. Asked if the distribution of PhilHealth cards to the public during the campaign period, which could be construed as a form of vote-buying, is legal, Brillantes said government projects should not cease during the campaign period. “Bakit hindi pwede magbigay ng PhilHealth e it is supposed to be distributed to the people? Ibig sabihin pag kampanya titigil ka? Bakit nyo ihihinto yan?” he said. Public support needed Brillantes, meanwhile, urged the public to file a complaint and submit evidence against government officials—even President Benigno Aquino III—who will be found using government resources to advance the campaign of candidates. “Kung ay magpa-file [at] sabihin nila na that is a form of illegal campaigning, we will have to resolve it one way or another. But there has to be a complaint and we cannot make a statement and make a conclusion na wala naman nagpa-file,” he said. Asked on if ever a complaint will be filed against Aquino, Brillantes said, “It does not matter even against the Pope kung kailangan.” “Hindi lang 'yung puro ingay, kung meron silang ebidensiya, they come to us and we will hear based on the evidence,” he added. The poll chief also denied the allegation of Kabataan party-list that the Comelec is turning a blind eye on the violations of the administration candidates while picking on “small fish.” “Sila ang lagay nang lagay ng posters dyan sinasabi nila pinaghihigpitan daw namin sila. Siguro ang mabuti na lang sa Kabataan, sumunod na lang sila sa batas at 'wag na silang gumawa ng conclusion na ginagamit ang government resources,” Brillantes said. “Kug meron silang ebidensiya ibigay nila sa amin para makita kung sino ang nagiging unfair. Pero kung puro sigaw at ingay hindi naman namin pwedeng papansinin 'yun. Tama na sunod na lang tayo sa batas, 'yun lang ang request namin,” he added. Comelec audit sought Earlier, LP stalwart House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II and Liberal Party (LP) senatorial candidate Jamby Madrigal asked the Comelec to audit the expenses of the Office of the Vice President, implying that Vice President Jejomar Binay may have used government funds to travel to Italy with his family. In a statement, the Office of the Vice President confirmed that Binay went to Italy with his wife. However, it said the trip was paid for by the couple's children as a surprise wedding anniversary gift. "Sorry to disappoint the LP. No government funds were used. All disbursements of the Office of the Vice President are subject to audit by the Commission on Audit," it said. One of LP's spokespersons, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, said that Aquino would not use his office to gain an unfair advantage over his political opponents. “President Aquino knows better than to dip into taxpayer’s money or public funds to finance Team PNoy. He will not violate his own daang matuwid,”  he said in a separate statement. “Team PNoy does not need Malacañang  to bankroll its campaign,” he added.— Amita O. Legaspi and Kimberly Jane Tan/KBK, GMA News