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Comelec Chair Brillantes proposes to abolish campaign period

Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes has a "radical proposal" for dealing with "epal", or candidates who campaign prematurely: remove the campaign period.

"We cannot regulate before the campaign period," Brillantes lamented at the #ThinkPh Summit in Makati. "If we remove the campaign period, we can start counting as soon as someone starts talking about running. If they run, those ads will be counted against their limit. If they don't run, then it won't matter."

The Omnibus Election Code mandates Comelec to monitor and count the airtime of political campaign ads only during the campaign period, ensuring that candidates do not surpass the ad limits set by law.

But many would-be candidates buy airtime on broadcast media before the campaign period and call their thinly disguised political ads public service announcements or some other euphemism. Along with many citizens booing on social media, Brillantes and the Comelec spokesman James Jimenez were openly critical of premature campaigning, but they said their hands were tied.

"If they have not filed their certificates of candidacy, then they are not yet candidates," he said. "So (technically), they are not yet campaigning."

Brillantes did not explain how the agency would monitor the statements and actions of what could be a multitude of non-candidates who may or may not run for office.

Brillantes appeared on a panel to discuss election data at the summit organized by Google and news website Rappler.

He attributed some of the 2013 election's problems on data transmission to the failure by Comelec to do the mandatory post mortem analysis of the 2010 elections. Brillantes was appointed chair of Comelec in 2011.

"Some of the problems could have been solved with a post mortem," he said, while promising that the commission that he now heads would conduct a post mortem of the 2013 elections in the next six months.

Asked to react to the prospect of abolishing the campaign period, a strategist for one of the major political coalitions called the idea "ridiculous."

"It will be impossible to implement," the strategist said. – HS/ELR, GMA News