Campaign posters on private property will not be removed during the Operation Baklas in the province of Catanduanes set simultaneously in all 11 towns this Friday, March 4, 2022, following last week’s meeting of the Commission on Elections and its deputized agencies.
Citing the recent national controversy that erupted over the removal of posters inside private property, Provincial Elections Supervisor Atty. Alberto Cañares advised municipal election officers and members of its Oplan Baklas teams from the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Philippine Army (PA), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other agencies including the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) not to remove illegal campaign posters on private fences and structures as well as those inside private property.
The poster removal activity will concentrate on those placed on electric posts, public buildings and structures such as waiting sheds, barangay halls, and bridges.
Atty. Cañares told the election officers to notify the owners of the presence of illegal campaign posters inside their properties.
The DENR clarified that the nailing, tacking, stapling or hanging of campaign posters on trees, even if it is inside property, is prohibited by Republic Act 3571 as amended by Presidential Decree 953.
However, Tribune research showed, the two laws prohibit the cutting, destroying or injuring of planted or growing trees, flowering plants and shrubs or plants of scenic value only along public roads, in plazas, parks, school premises or in any other public ground, and along banks of rivers or creeks.
Recently, the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to candidates, political parties and their supporters not to nail, tack, staple or hang campaign paraphernalia on trees as it damages the protective bark and punctures the inside of a tree, allowing the entry of harmful organisms and eventually causing stress, inhibiting growth or killing the tree.
COMELEC Resolution No. 10730 also stated that trees are not considered a common poster area for electoral candidates and warned violators that they would be prosecuted for violation of these election laws, rules and regulations, without prejudice to the institution of a criminal complaint for the violation of Republic Act No. 3571.
The date for the Oplan Baklas was set during the Feb. 24, 2022 meeting of the COMELEC provincial and municipal officials with representatives of deputized agencies at the headquarters of the Catanduanes Police Provincial Office at Camp Camacho.
Also present were officials of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Health (DOH), Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), Commission on Audit (COA), Provincial Treasurer’s Office (PTO), and the National Irrigation Authority (NIA).
Officials of the law enforcement agencies as well as the DENR reportedly said during the meeting that they have separately received communications from higher offices and superiors that they should not participate in the actual removal of the illegal campaign posters.
They would only provide security and monitor the removal of the posters, it was stated, with the latter job to be the sole responsibility of the DPWH Catanduanes District Engineering Office.
According to a source, both Atty. Cañares and Virac election officer Atty. Maico Julia Jr. said the maximum poster size of 2 feet by 3 feet is meant to level the playing field as far as the candidates are concerned, they are of the opinion that the size requirement does not apply to campaign or advocacy posters put up by private individuals inside their own properties as their freedom of expression.