Social media was up in arms again after footage of Commission on Elections (COMELEC) personnel taking down a mural in Isabela showing support for Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Kiko Pangilinan that stood on private property.
COMELEC staff, who were escorted by armed uniformed personnel, painted over the wall in white, which faced a sidewalk in the town of Echague, Isabela.
The Commission on Elections, the body in charge of enforcing election-related laws and regulations, said that the defacement was part of their “Oplan Baklas” (Oplan Takedown) where they would take down unlawful election campaign materials under COMELEC Resolution 107730.
The resolution allows the following paraphernalia during campaign season.
“Pamphlets, leaflets, cards, decals, stickers or other written or printed materials the size of which does not exceed eight and one-half inches (8 ½”) in width and fourteen inches (14”) in length;
…Cloth, paper or cardboard posters, whether framed or posted, with an area not exceeding two (2) feet by three (3) feet, except that, at the site and on the occasion of a public meeting or rally, or in announcing the holding of said meeting or rally, streamers not exceeding three (3) feet by eight (8) feet in size,
shall be allowed: Provided, That said streamers may be displayed five (5) days before the date of the meeting or rally and shall be removed within twenty-four (24) hours after said meeting or rally.“
Under “Oplan Baklas,” the Commission on Elections takes down posters, tarpaulins, and other materials that do not fall under the provisions stated above.
Yet no provision in the resolution states that volunteer-produced paraphernalia displayed on private property is prohibited and must be taken down.
In a video posted by the group Isabela Para Kay Leni-Kiko on Facebook, a woman who introduced herself as the property owner questioned the COMELEC personnel on taking down the mural without seeking permission.
“Nasa loob ng property line namin ‘yan, bakit niyo pipinturahan? Hindi niyo puwedeng galawin ‘yung property namin, ‘di ba? (The wall falls within our property line, why will you paint over it? You can’t touch anything within our property, right?),” the woman asked.
The staff member defended their team’s actions, saying that they were not trespassing as they were not entering a compound or destroying private property.
“Magagalaw ho namin basta abot namin (We can do anything we want as long as we can reach it),” the officer explained.
Social media expressed their anger and frustration through the hashtag #AnyareCOMELEC (#WhatHappenedCOMELEC).
COMELEC has gone too far. Literally a private property. Using private funds by private individuals.— t.ocin.o (@nicoquejano) February 17, 2022
Rights of the owner, of the artists violated. @jabjimenez
This is in Echague, Isabela. #AnyareCOMELEC pic.twitter.com/G3tmmZwOWk
From this: To this:#AnyareCOMELEC pic.twitter.com/tplyJdKElc— Kyle (@Kyle61346896) February 17, 2022
What @COMELEC is doing is shifting the burden from the COMELEC to private persons to prove that there is no violation of election rules. This is oppression, and those affected should fight back. File cases against those officers that violated your rights. #AnyareCOMELEC pic.twitter.com/oQahU06Hjw— SopSL (@SopMSL) February 17, 2022
Senatorial candidate and law dean Chel Diokno reminded the public that the Comelec and the Philippine National Police have no power to take down any election paraphernalia, including posters, murals, and tarpaulins, that are placed inside private properties and have not been paid for by candidates or political parties — regardless of their size.
Ang ganitong mga aksyon ng COMELEC at PNP ay labag sa ating Saligang Batas.— Chel Diokno (@ChelDiokno) February 17, 2022
Unang una, walang kapangyarihan ang COMELEC at PNP na mambaklas ng mga poster at tarp—kahit anong laki niya—na nasa private property at hindi inilagay ng kandidato o partidong politikal.
Diokno reminded the public that neither COMELEC authorities nor the police may enter homes, offices, or any private property without a search warrant signed by a judge if you have not expressed permission or consent.
At pangatlo, di pwedeng pumasok ang COMELEC o PNP sa inyong mga bahay, opisina o anumang private property na walang search warrant galing sa isang judge kung wala kayong pahintulot o consent.— Chel Diokno (@ChelDiokno) February 17, 2022
READ: ‘Despicable, disgusting:’ Director Erik Matti hits Toni Gonzaga for ‘unbothered’ Marcos support in scathing Instagram post
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