Don’t use victory parade for politics, pols warned
By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Politicians who ride on the fame of Manny Pacquiao are forewarned: Don’t inject politics into any victory celebration for him when he comes home—unless you want to run afoul of election campaign laws.
“It’s a warning. Don’t use the victory parade for (your) own political purposes,” Election Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said Monday, referring to national and local candidates who aim to bask in Pacquiao’s glory following his one-sided win over Ghana’s Joshua Clottey last weekend in Texas.
In other words, keep politics out of any celebration in honor of the boxing champ.
“This one is a national event, a sporting event, it’s not an event that’s owned by any particular group, politician or political party,” said the Commission on Elections official.
“We would advise candidates, both local and national, to refrain from using this event, meaning to say don’t put streamers or materials that contain ‘Vote for me,’ or don’t put up any material that contains the number corresponding to your name on the ballot. Spare the event from politics.”
Election law limits the size of posters of candidates. Also, posters should be put up only in designated areas. Candidates may put up posters in private places but they need the consent of the owners.
It may be argued that if a poster is placed on a private vehicle with the permission of the owner, that is allowed, but some may interpret the situation differently and file a complaint against the candidate, Larrazabal said.
Neither should candidates tell people whom to vote for during events strictly meant to honor Pacquiao.
“For example, he says, ‘Vote for [this candidate].’ I would suggest they don’t, just to be on the safe side, because people can file cases and if people can file cases, obviously the (commission) en banc will hear this and determine the merits of the petition,” Larrazabal said.
He said the complaints would depend on the specific circumstances, “but we would strongly suggest, ‘don’t politicize the victory parade.’”
Larrazabal said that even if the candidates insisted that their use of posters was legal, the issue might not just be a matter of following the law but a matter of propriety as well.
As for national candidates who put up posters in places where Pacquiao’s fight with Clottey was shown, the election official said they should have followed the regulations specifying the locations and sizes of the posters.
Larrazabal also clarified that since the campaign period for local candidates would not officially start until March 26, such candidates—including Pacquiao himself, who is running for a congressional seat in Sarangani province—could not be accused of premature campaigning, as spelled out in a recent Supreme Court ruling.
“If it’s local, again, if it’s before March 26, there’s no premature campaigning,” Larrazabal said.
Besides running for Congress, Pacquiao is also an endorser of Nacionalista Party presidential aspirant Manuel Villar.
Larrazabal said the national candidates who had sponsored public viewings of Pacquiao’s fights would have to include the amount they spent for it in their expense reports.
Malacañang intends to roll out the red carpet for Pacquiao when he comes home, possibly next week, even if he is allied with Villar. Pacquiao is currently in Los Angeles, California.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar said the Palace would start making preparations this week for the arrival of the boxing icon.
The preparations would include looking into what other awards could be given Pacquiao, who has already been decorated with the Order of Sikatuna.
“It doesn’t matter to Malacañang if Manny is now identified with the opposition,” Olivar said. “He’s the people’s champ.”
Villar said on dzXL radio Monday that he received a call from Pacquiao immediately after the fight and Pacquiao told him he would be coming home right away to campaign for both of them.
Villar said the Nacionalista Party was preparing a grand welcome for the boxer. With reports from Christine O. Avendaño, Nikko Dizon, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr. in Manila; and Anselmo Roque, Inquirer Central Luzon