Miriam hits senators for moonlighting as talents

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has asked the Commission on Elections to ban the showing or airing of election campaign materials in the guise of commercial advertisement for consumer products.

Santiago said the commercial ads featuring politicians with known presidential ambition constitute a violation of the Omnibus Election Code.

It is unlawful for any person to engage in an election campaign or partisan political activity, except during the election period, Santiago said citing the election code.

“I respectfully, file this request, in response to mounting media and public clamor to stop the ongoing premature campaign of certain candidates,” Santiago said in a letter to Comelec Chairman Jose Melo.

“It is unacceptable for lawmakers themselves to violate the law, by invoking deceptive technicalities to circumvent that law,” Santiago said as she made it clear that she was not directing this request against any particular personality.

The maverick senator made the move following the brouhaha over the current practice of presidential hopefuls, most of whom are senators, to moonlight as product endorsers in commercial ads. Politicians who have appeared in this kind of ads include Senate President Manuel Villar, Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan and Senators Loren Legarda, Panfilo Lacson, Francis Escudero, Richard Gordon and Pia Cayetano.

Santiago said the ban should also apply to ads supposedly promoting the personal advocacy of the would-be candidates.

Meanwhile, Lacson said he has good reasons to believe that certain politicians are using public funds in advertisements in which they are espousing their advocacy.

“I won’t mention names but there are. The use of government funds for such purpose can be hidden. That is quite clear. Why will you appear over TV, where you speak of certain advocacy for any issue. You are not endorsing any product. That is self-endorsement,” he said.

Lacson said any politician who uses public funds to promote his or her candidacy should be jailed.

Lacson, who appeared in a TV commercial endorsing the services of the Facial Care Center, said there is no need to subject the appearance of politicians in commercial ads to regulation as long as there is no conflict of interest.

“When the time comes, for example, that the company behind the product I have endorsed encounters a problem regarding legislation, then I have to inhibit myself, I should not participate in any discussion or any voting for that matter,” he said.