It’s Feb. 12, which means it’s officially campaign season for candidates running for national positions in this year’s Philippine midterm elections.
Election season can get very intense in the Philippines, so before social media is taken over by political posts and the streets are drowned in even more campaign posters, here’s a quick primer on what’s to come in the next few months.
2019 is the year of the midterm elections, which take place every three years. It’s overseen by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).
Philippine elections are held on the second Monday of May of every election year. This year, that’s on May 13.
The campaign period for national posts like senator or congressional seats reserved for so-called party-list groups that ostensibly represent various advocacy groups starts today, Feb. 12.
Those running for local positions like those in the House of Representatives and provincial and municipal seats can officially start campaigning on March 29, 2019, Friday.
All candidates must stop campaigning on Saturday, May 11.
The highest national position up for grabs during midterms are 12 seats in the Senate.
The latest data from pollster Pulse Asia shows that Senator Grace Poe sits atop most surveys. She is followed by Cynthia Villar, Sonny Angara, Pia Cayetano, Lito Lapid, and Nancy Binay.
Other prominent figures running for Senate are Imee Marcos, daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and Mar Roxas, Rodrigo Duterte’s opponent in the 2016 presidential elections.
The Philippines operates on a multi-party system meant to ensure that no one party can dominate, but the system has become corrupted. Parties are only loosely based on actual ideologies, and politicians often jump from one party to another depending on who’s in power and who they’d like to be aligned with for that particular election season.
Apart from senators, Filipinos will also elect congressional representatives for their districts and for a party-list that advocates for marginalized and underrepresented sectors.
Provincial officials like governors and local government officials such as mayors will also be elected.
Registered voters cast their ballots in precincts pre-assigned by the COMELEC in their respective barangays (villages). These precincts are usually schools or barangay (village) halls.
Nearly everything comes to a halt once the campaign period starts.
For example, small towns enjoy virtually daily fiestas courtesy of politicians who want to butter up their constituents. Entertaining people is at the core of the campaigning, with rallies turning into concerts and variety shows.
While it’s against COMELEC rules to screen or broadcast biopics about candidates during the campaign period, many aspirants produce films about themselves and show them in cinemas or on TV before campaigning officially starts.
Candidates also rely heavily on campaign posters, which litter the streets during election season.
Just yesterday, the COMELEC told candidates to remove prohibited campaign materials like those posted on common poster areas, public places, and in private properties without the owner’s consent, before the campaign period starts.
The COMELEC also bans the use of guns from Jan. 13-June 12 and the “selling, furnishing, offering, buying, serving, or taking” of liquor on the eve of and on Election Day.
Like the last three national and local elections, this year’s will be automated, starting with the counting of votes in the precincts, down to “the canvassing of provincial and highly urbanized city results, including overseas results.”
Overseas Filipino Workers or Filipinos living abroad can vote in person at embassies, consulates, and other foreign service establishments, or by mail. Overseas voting will start on April 13.