This is just my opinion on one of the issues posted on one Facebook page. The question essentially goes this way: You are a public government employee and a radio DJ. Is it proper for you to accept an offer from a candidate to make a radio commercial to promote his candidacy?

The law is too plain to be mistaken.

Section 2(4), Article IX-B of the 1987 Constitution provides that “No officer or employee in the civil service shall engage, directly or indirectly, in any electioneering or partisan political campaign.”

Further, under the Omnibus Election Code, “election campaign” or “partisan political activity” is defined as “acts designed to have a candidate elected or not or promote the candidacy of a person or persons to a public office.”

Clearly, taking part into a radio commercial, the purpose of which is to make known to the public the candidacy of someone running for a certain elective position, constitutes partisan political activity as you are promoting the candidacy of a person to a public office. Therefore, being a government employee, you should decline from accepting such offer.

However, one may argue that – the making of a radio commercial was committed in his private capacity and has no direct relation to or connection with the performance of his official duties.

The law does not distinguish whether the partisan political activities were done in relation to his office or not. Otherwise, all laws would be illusory if acts that cannot be legally done directly can be done indirectly. In the first place, electioneering or election campaigning is not, at any stretch, connected to the performance of, or part of, any governmental/official duties. It is always done in a private capacity. Besides, the law says “directly or indirectly”, hence, the argument must fail.

Notwithstanding the prohibition, the law allows civil service officers and employees to vote, as well as express their views on political issues, or mention the names of certain candidates for public office whom they support.

Let us visit the case of ELEAZAR P. QUINTO and GERINO A. TOLENTINO, JR. vs. COMELEC (G.R. No. 189698 February 22, 2010), where the Supreme Court discussed who are covered by the constitutional ban and exceptions to the rule by going over the deliberations of the framers of the constitution. Pertinent portions of the decision are, as follows:

“The intention to impose a strict limitation on the participation of civil service officers and employees in partisan political campaigns is unmistakable. The exchange between Commissioner Quesada and Commissioner Foz during the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission is instructive:

x x x x
Secondly, I would like to address the issue here as provided in Section 1 (4), line 12, and I quote: “No officer or employee in the civil service shall engage, directly or indirectly, in any partisan political activity.” This is almost the same provision as in the 1973 Constitution. However, we in the government service have actually experienced how this provision has been violated by the direct or indirect partisan political activities of many government officials.
So, is the Committee willing to include certain clauses that would make this provision more strict, and which would deter its violation?

MR. FOZ. Madam President, the existing Civil Service Law and the implementing rules on the matter are more than exhaustive enough to really prevent officers and employees in the public service from engaging in any form of partisan political activity. But the problem really lies in implementationbecause, if the head of a ministry, and even the superior officers of offices and agencies of government will themselves violate the constitutional injunction against partisan political activity, then no string of words that we may add to what is now here in this draft will really implement the constitutional intent against partisan political activity. x x x

To emphasize its importance, this constitutional ban on civil service officers and employees is presently reflected and implemented by a number of statutes. Section 46(b)(26), Chapter 7 and Section 55, Chapter 8 both of Subtitle A, Title I, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987 respectively provide in relevant part:

Section 44. Discipline: General Provisions:

x x x x

(b) The following shall be grounds for disciplinary action:

x x x x

(26) Engaging directly or indirectly in partisan political activities by one holding a non-political office.

x x x x

Section 55. Political Activity. No officer or employee in the Civil Service including members of the Armed Forces, shall engage directly or indirectly in any partisan political activity or take part in any election except to vote nor shall he use his official authority or influence to coerce the political activity of any other person or body. Nothing herein provided shall be understood to prevent any officer or employee from expressing his views on current political problems or issues, or from mentioning the names of his candidates for public office whom he supports: Provided, That public officers and employees holding political offices may take part in political and electoral activities but it shall be unlawful for them to solicit contributions from their subordinates or subject them to any of the acts involving subordinates prohibited in the Election Code.

Section 261(i) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 (the Omnibus Election Code) further makes intervention by civil service officers and employees in partisan political activities an election offense, viz.:

SECTION 261. Prohibited Acts. The following shall be guilty of an election offense:

x x x x

(i) Intervention of public officers and employees. Any officer or employee in the civil service, except those holding political offices; any officer, employee, or member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, or any police force, special forces, home defense forces, barangay self-defense units and all other para-military units that now exist or which may hereafter be organized who, directly or indirectly, intervenes in any election campaign or engages in any partisan political activity, except to vote or to preserve public order, if he is a peace officer.

The intent of both Congress and the framers of our Constitution to limit the participation of civil service officers and employees in partisan political activities is too plain to be mistaken.

But Section 2(4), Article IX-B of the 1987 Constitution and the implementing statutes apply only to civil servants holding apolitical offices. Stated differently, the constitutional ban does not cover elected officials, notwithstanding the fact that [t]he civil service embraces all branches, subdivisions, instrumentalities, and agencies ofthe Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters. This is because elected public officials, by the very nature of their office, engage in partisan political activities almost all year round, even outside of the campaign period. Political partisanship is the inevitable essence of a political office, elective positions included.

The prohibition notwithstanding, civil service officers and employees are allowed to vote, as well as express their views on political issues, or mention the names of certain candidates for public office whom they support. This is crystal clear from the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission, viz.:

MS. AQUINO: Mr. Presiding Officer, my proposed amendment is on page 2, Section 1, subparagraph 4, lines 13 and 14. On line 13, between the words “any” and “partisan,” add the phrase ELECTIONEERING AND OTHER; and on line 14, delete the word “activity” and in lieu thereof substitute the word CAMPAIGN.

May I be allowed to explain my proposed amendment?

THE PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Treas): Commissioner Aquino may proceed.

MS. AQUINO: The draft as presented by the Committee deleted the phrase “except to vote” which was adopted in both the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions. The phrase “except to vote” was not intended as a guarantee to the right to vote but as a qualification of the general prohibition against taking part in elections.

Voting is a partisan political activity. Unless it is explicitly provided for as an exception to this prohibition, it will amount to disenfranchisement. We know that suffrage, although plenary, is not an unconditional right. In other words, the Legislature can always pass a statute which can withhold from any class the right to vote in an election, if public interest so required. I would only like to reinstate the qualification by specifying the prohibited acts so that those who may want to vote but who are likewise prohibited from participating in partisan political campaigns or electioneering may vote.

MR. FOZ: There is really no quarrel over this point, but please understand that there was no intention on the part of the Committee to disenfranchise any government official or employee. The elimination of the last clause of this provision was precisely intended to protect the members of the civil service in the sense that they are not being deprived of the freedom of expression in a political contest. The last phrase or clause might have given the impression that a government employee or worker has no right whatsoever in an election campaign except to vote, which is not the case. They are still free to express their views although the intention is not really to allow them to take part ACTIVELY in a political campaign.

With the above foregoing, I must say that to be one of the voice actors in a radio commercial promoting the candidacy of a certain candidate constitutes active political campaigning – a prohibited act.

Photo credits: wisegeek