The circus is in town.
Or so it will be at the strike of midnight when the campaign period for local candidates in the May 2019 elections starts on Friday, March 29.
On the eve of the start of the local campaign, the Commission on Elections reminded local candidates to be considerate and to keep the campaign clean, literally, beginning with their campaign posters.
"Candidates have to take down these [illegal campaign] materials that were already posted during the pre campaign period. As soon as the campaign period starts these materials will be in violation of law therefore leaving them vulnerable to charges of election offenses," Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said.
The posting of illegal campaign materials has been a perennial problem in Philippine elections but laws only penalize candidates during the campaign period.
The rules only allow posters on common poster areas or in private properties with the consent of the owner, and in the prescribed size of 3 feet by 2 feet.
Even tarpaulins welcoming candidates bearing their names and photos on graduation ceremonies will be considered election materials according the Comelec.
They also called out incumbent government officials seeking reelection to remove their names and pictures on government properties like ambulances and other government vehicles.
"It does not seem appropriate that government resources be used as a plaform for campaigning especially if these personalities are running for office," Jimenez said.
The Comelec asked candidates to be considerate, first by keeping their campaign venues clean, as sorties usually result in piles of trash.
The agency also reminded candidates to plan their motorcades so as not to cause traffic congestion, and to conduct campaigns at humane hours, so as not to inconvenience communities.
The Comelec is encouraging the public to report campaign violations thru their social media accounts.
Local elections are usually more hotly contested and incidents of election related violence are expected to escalate in the coming weeks.
Election hot spots
The Commission on Elections on March 19 declared the entire island group of Mindanao as a category red election hot spot for the May 2019 polls.
The town of Jones in Isabela, Lope de Vega in Northern Samar and the entire province of Abra were also declared category red.
According to Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez, the development came in the wake of suspected election-related incidents in the last two elections, including "serious armed threats" posed by terrorist groups.
A red classification may warrant the motu proprio declaration of Comelec control over the area concerned.
"We shall continue to perform our mandate to enforce the law and ensure peace and order in the run up to the May 13 polls," PNP spokesperson, Police Colonel Bernard Banac told GMA News Online.
The Comelec, PNP and AFP categorize election hotspots from green to red.
As Jimenez explains it, areas under category green are those "of no security concern and are relatively peaceful and orderly."
Category yellow refers to areas "with a history of election related violence or the existence of intense partisan political rivalry, but without the participation of domestic terror groups."
Category orange refers to areas where "there are likewise serious armed threats posed by domestic terror groups and other analogous armed groups" in addition to conditions that would qualify an area as category yellow.
Red, the highest of the categories, refers to areas where "while being under category orange, the relevant government agencies declare the existence of conditions which may constitute grounds for the declaration of control." —NB, GMA News