Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Brillantes urged to ‘green’ elections

Amid a flurry of opinions regarding his appointment as Commission on Elections chair, environmental advocates posed another challenge, on Wednesday, to lawyer Sixto Brillantes Jr,: make Philippine elections “green.”

“In view of his promise to carry out massive reforms within the commission, we urge Chairman Brillantes to equally introduce changes that will ‘green’ and cut the wastefulness in future polls,” said Roy Alvarez, EcoWaste Coalition president said in a statement.

In a letter sent to the Comelec central office in Intramuros, Manila, the groups belonging to the EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental watchdog, expressed hope that a re-organized poll body under Brillantes would work for both the political rights, as well as the environmental rights, of the Filipino people.

The letter was signed by environmental leaders from the Alaga Lahat, Angkan ng Mandirigma, Ang NARS, Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, Citizens Concerned with Advocating Philippine Environmental Sustainability, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Krusada sa Kalikasan, Miriam PEACE, Mother Earth Foundation, November 17 Movement, Philippine Earth Justice Center and Zero Waste Philippines.

“We hope that the Comelec, under your watch, will exercise effective leadership to protect not only the sanctity of the ballot, but also safeguard the environment from further degradation associated with political activities,” they said in their letter.

The groups added that “reckless” political activities that waste resources and pollute the surroundings “have to go,” adding, “Our monitoring of the 2007 and 2010 elections shows blatant breach of electoral as well as health and environmental regulations traceable to the failure of Comelec, national agencies and local government units (LGUs) from enforcing existing electoral and environmental laws.”

They said “typical environmental lapses” that occurred in past elections include the uncontrolled plastering of campaign posters outside Comelec-designated areas, most notoriously on trees, electric posts and walls; as well as the hanging of campaign flags, lanterns and streamers in streets and alleys.

The display of “indirect” campaign-related banners such as graduation and fiesta “greetings” and announcements extolling the projects and achievements of politicians was also rampant, they said.

During campaign meetings, there was also the unregulated noise from mobile political propaganda while on election day itself, there was unfettered distribution and littering of sample ballots, especially near voting precincts.

After the election period, candidates and political party fail to immediately remove the campaign materials.

EcoWaste said the Comelec should discourage the open burning of campaign waste, a habit which, they said, Comelec offices even practice despite the ban on burning under Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

The groups also called attention to the failure of the Comelec to promulgate the implementing rules and regulations for sectoral representation at local legislative bodies as required by the Constitution and R.A. 7160, the Local Government Code.

EcoWaste said it would be ready to collaborate with the Comelec in the effort to “green” the elections that would require the input and participation of all sectors.

The network provided Brillantes with a list of recommendations, which, if implemented, would “lead to an environmentally-responsible exercise of the people’s right of suffrage and authentic participatory governance through sectoral representation.”

The list includes proposals for the Comelec to:

* Adopt a resolution declaring Zero Waste as a policy to effectively reduce trash in all future electoral exercises;

* Create a unit, ideally led by the chairman or one of the commissioners to take charge of “greening” the elections and a no-nonsense enforcement of laws, in partnership with stakeholders;

* Require all individuals and groups running for election to sign a memorandum of agreement stipulating the obligation of candidates to comply with lawful and environmentally friendly campaign practices, including a mandatory post-campaign clean up;

* Incorporate environmental responsibility in its public information drive for clean, orderly, peaceful, honest and fair elections;

* Impose a ban on campaign materials that are hardly reused or recycled and are habitually littered or burned in violation of RA 9003 and related local ordinances;

* Ensure full compliance to the ban on open burning, particularly of campaign posters and banners removed during clean up operations;

* Regulate campaign motorcades, if not impose an outright ban, to address rising problems with traffic congestion, air pollution and climate change, especially in urban centers such as Metro Manila;

* Set regulations, in coordination with the Department of Health, on poll campaign noise;

* Adopt and popularize practical guidelines to assist political parties, party-list groups and candidates in preventing and reducing their campaign waste.


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