Baklas | WSN

After that initial display of determination and zeal to take down illegal campaign materials, which suspiciously targeted only one candidate’s materials that were displayed inside private property instead of public spaces, the Commission on Elections and its deputized authorities seem to have lost the will to carry on with its “Operation Baklas.”

For example, here in Negros Island, who can name even one common poster area where the campaign materials are supposed to be properly displayed? Campaign materials are everywhere but nobody seems to be doing any “baklasing” and there seems to be no common poster areas.

Is the Comelec still interested in going after illegal campaign materials or is it too busy finding excuses to keep obviously unqualified candidates from being disqualified?

While the Comelec’s “Operation Baklas” suffered a setback after the Supreme Court stopped it from going after campaign materials posted in or on private property, there is still so much public property that it could’ve protected from this country’s trashy candidates and their equally trashy supporters and operators. But based on what happened after the initial zeal and the SC ruling, it would seem that Comelec people were only interested in going after a certain kind of campaign materials… the type that private citizens voluntarily place on their property to show their support for the candidate they chose.

It should be easy to continue with the well-intentioned “Operation Baklas” that was supposed to limit the proliferation of ugly campaign materials on public spaces. All the Comelec had to do was to teach their operators the difference between public and private property and they should’ve been able to gleefully baklas away the millions of tons of illegal electoral waste that has been plaguing our country over the past few months.

While posters hanging from homes and murals painted on walls are understandably off limits to the Comelec because they are on private property, it is frustrating to see them suddenly just give up after the SC clarified where their powers to take down campaign materials ended. What makes it dumbfounding is that the campaign materials posted on private property that Comelec officials were going hammer and tongs after constitute a minority of all the blatantly illegal campaign trash that is currently out there.

Our public spaces have been inundated with campaign trash and it seems like nobody has been doing anything about it. The Comelec has the power and the duty to remove everything that is outside private property: sidewalks, utility posts, trees, fences and even gutters shouldn’t have campaign materials because those are only allowed on common poster areas. But why isn’t it doing anything?

Shouldn’t the candidates be afraid of the Commission on Elections? Why does it seem like it is the other way around? When candidates feel like they can ignore the rules and abuse public property with their unpretty faces, they must know just how useless the Comelec is. Its “Operation Baklas” started with a bang, when they pushed the limits of their power to invade private properties to take down the unwanted posters. But after the SC reminded them of the definitions of private property and freedom of speech, they suddenly lost the urge to do any baklasing, despite having the power to do so and with much public property being plastered with tons upon tons of unwanted campaign materials.

No public space is currently free of campaign crap. From the sidewalk to the highway, from the gutter to the top of the electric post. The funny thing about this is the guiltiest parties are involved in government. Local politicos running for posts or supporting national candidates who think they are free to do anything they please to our towns our towns and cities are the ones who fill our public spaces with their trash and they do it with blatant impunity, knowing that the Comelec doesn’t even bother taking anything down or penalizing offenders.

If you come to think of it, it isn’t difficult to be successful at “Operation Baklas.” All they need for the barangay to hire a team of people to take down the posters every day in areas that are deemed public spaces. After a 30-minute orientation on the difference between public and private property, they can be given the necessary tools and set loose. Unfortunately for us, barangay officials are probably busier hiring people to put up posters because there’s nothing stopping them and there’s more money there.

The failure of “Operation Baklas” which should be such a simple and straightforward undertaking is testament to the lack of political will within the Comelec. While we can’t blame them for their failure to disqualify unqualified candidates as making such a principled stand is bit more complicated, when it comes to keeping our communities clean during the campaign period, such a debacle is squarely on their shoulders.

How many more elections and campaign periods do we have to endure before this simple task can be mastered by the Commission on Elections?*

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