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Valte cries censorship over Comelec rules on Facebook posts, tweets

One of President Benigno Aquino III's spokespersons on Thursday accused the Commission on Elections of censoring public officials, saying the poll body's implementing rules for the 2016 elections effectively ban government hands from posting their political view in the social media.

On her Facebook account, Undersecretary Abigail Valte said she was alarmed by Comelec Resolution No. 10049's provision on the “personal opinions, views and preferences for candidates, contained in blogs and micro-blogs” of "government officials in the Executive department, Legislative department, the Judiciary, the Constitutional Commissions, and members of the Civil Service."

“Just read the new Comelec implementing rules.... The act of government officials of (Executive, Legislative, Judiciary, Consti Commissions, members of the Civil Service, in short ALL) expressing their personal opinion, view and preference for candidates on social media is now considered electioneering. Ergo election offense,” said Valte, a lawyer by profession.

“Beginning February 9, if I tweet or post 'Candidate Y is a douchebag' then I may be prosecuted for an election offense,” Valte said.

Sought for comment, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said that he would answer at length on Friday.

"I think there is a misunderstanding. I will formally respond tomorrow," Bautista said in a text message.

February 9 is the start of the campaign period for the national positions.

Valte told GMA News Online that Section 1 definition of partisan political activity included personal opinions posted in the social media by all government officials and employees in all branches, constitutional bodies and in the civil service.

She said Section 55 of the Administrative Code prohibited members of the civil service from engaging in partisan political activity. She added that the prohibition under the code didn't cover political appointees like her.

Valte said Section 1 of the Comelec resolution also went against Section 55 of the code, which further reads: “Nothing herein provided shall be understood to prevent any officer or employee from expressing his views on current political problems or issues, or from mentioning the names of his candidates for public office whom he supports.”

“Ang labas, censorship on all public servants. Effective prior restraint. Freedom of speech, anyone? Kelan pa bumalik ang Martial Law? Di ba 2016 na?” Valte said.

Valte said that for censorship to be allowed under the Constitution, “ there must be a clear and present danger of a substantive evil to public safety, public morals, public health or any other legitimate public interest.”

“Put another way, how will my posting of ‘I don't like Candidate XY because his pigs live in an airconditioned pen’ pose a clear and present danger to public safety? Public morals? Public health? Considered public health agad kapag tumaas ang blood pressure ni Candidate XY dahil nabasa niya ang post ko?" she added.

It has been alleged that opposition presidential candidate Vice President Jejomar Binay owned a property in Batangas that had, among others, an airconditioned piggery. He has repeatedly denied the allegation.

Presidential spokespersons over the past months were criticized for speaking for the Liberal Party's standard-bearer former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. -NB, GMA News