Saturday, February 13, 2010

The comic artist

CAN anything be more surreal than hearing the government announce it will enforce fairness during this campaign season?

The past nights, I caught TV reports showing mobilized teams of youths grab and tear campaign materials declared illegal by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Newspapers and websites also carried photos of election officers and their brigades “liberating” city walls and other public spaces.

Such scenes of the government making its presence felt—or actually biting, not just barking—were reported as being undertaken simultaneously all over the country as the Friday deadline to removing the illegal campaign materials drew close, then closer.

And passed.

I walked to the corner the morning after the Feb. 12 deadline. Before I reached the highway seller of “puto maya,” Manny V., set off by his trademark orange, beamed four times down at me.

The sun wasn’t high up in the sky yet. Compared to the past days, there was a cool, teasing wind.

There was no sight of the teams indefatigably toiling in the heat and the dust to enforce fairness for all.

Perhaps beating their self-imposed deadline on fairness pooped them?

Because I started to feel a bit as if I were walking in a dream, suspended between photo ops and street reality, I skipped the “puto maya” and turned home.

On the Internet, I found out that there actually exists a regulation governing election campaigning fairness (bureaucracies being sinkholes for triple compound nouns and other oddities).

Comelec Resolution 8758 requires candidates to put up their advertisements on common poster areas like plazas, markets, and barangay centers.

Anyone violating this campaign rule can be punished with “imprisonment from one to six years, disenfranchisement, and disqualification from holding public office.”

That sounded excessively harsh for inflicting one’s toothsome mug on long-suffering voters until I read that no one has yet been punished. No violator has, in fact, been caught.

The Comelec, however, remains optimistic that, “It’s not too late to start.”

By this, I think they mean they can still convince themselves, if not the public, of their will to extract fair behavior from all involved in this national racket called the election.

The Comelec is so intense about doing the right thing, it will not wait but send out its own task force to remove the illegal posters and streamers, rather than demand the culprits clean up their own trash.

Since the big-time campaign bosses have not given any sign they believe such an agency as the Comelec exists, the Comelec will prove its own existence anyway.

They will go around cities and “document” violations. They will deluge their legal department with these reports of violations.

They will issue “friendly warnings” to candidates.

They will not, however, monitor public broadcast and surf the Internet to check how fairness rules are being rewritten there.

And, yes, they are still upholding the same slapstick routine: ““If you see something, please report it to us.”

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Feb. 14, 2010 issue of “Matamata”

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