By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

THE COMMISSION on Elections on Wednesday reminded Filipinos that wearing campaign shirts on election day is illegal.

       “We won’t dictate upon voters and prohibit them from wearing the campaign color of a candidate,” Election Commissioner George Erwin M. Garcia told an online news briefing in Filipino. “Remember, campaigning on May 9 is banned.”

He said election watchers might flag voters who wear campaign materials inside voting precincts.

“If you wear a face mask or clothes with the face of a candidate, I am sure the watcher inside the voting precinct will object,” he added.

Former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., the frontrunner in opinion polls who snubbed presidential debates, on Tuesday night focused on his unity message.

“Turn our back on misunderstanding and divisiveness,” he said in a video message posted on his Facebook page. “Support a unifying leader who will bring us to a prosperous tomorrow.”

He also asked people to guard their votes. “Let us protect our decision and let us not allow it to be stolen from us again.”

Vice-President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo, No. 2 in presidential opinion polls, defeated him in the 2016 vice-presidential race by a hair.

Mr. Marcos filed an election protested that the Supreme Court dismissed last year.

Ms. Robredo in a video also posted on her Facebook page on Tuesday night reiterated her economic recovery plan.

“Marcos’s campaign is centered on refurbishing his family’s image instead of presenting a much-needed economic recovery plan for the country,” said Cielo D. Magno, a professor at the University of the Philippines’ (UP) School of Economics.

He “continues to stick with his motherhood statements about unity, hoping that it is sufficient to convince Filipinos to vote for him,” she said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

On the other hand, Ms. Robredo’s latest video showed “her seriousness and commitment in finding solutions to the problems that beset our country,” she added.

Her participation in presidential debates, where she “presented her priorities and share her point of views about the structural problems of the country,” allowed ordinary Filipinos and businessmen to gauge her economic plan, Ms. Magno said.

“This is the minimum that we should expect from our presidential candidates.”

Mr. Marcos should have focused on his socioeconomic platforms during the campaign season, said John Paolo R. Rivera, an economist at the Asian Institute of Management.

“Unity is a consequence of good socioeconomic platforms that aim to improve societal well-being,” he said in a Viber message. “You cannot dissect unity anymore.”

Emy Ruth G. Gianan, who teaches economics at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, said only Ms. Robredo and labor leader Leodegario “Ka Leody” de Guzman had detailed their economic plans.

“Leody anchors his plan on a labor-first economic policy — ending worker contractualization, institution of a wealth tax and removing the Automatic Debt Appropriation Law,” she said in Messenger chat.

“VP Leni intends to strengthen four key industries — marine, climate, digital and manufacturing — toward gainful employment,” she added.

“She is also keen to create unemployment insurance, open to a wealth tax and amendments to economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution to allow more foreign investments in the country.”

Jeffrey A. Arapoc, an economist at the UP Los Baños, said Mr. Marcos’s focus on unity warning of possible election cheating was a “very strategic move.”

“Having the best economic platform will not win you an election,” he said in a Messenger chat.

Zyza Nadine Suzara, a public finance expert and executive director at I-Lead, said Ms. Robredo’s video message was people-centered.

“This is starkly different from Marcos Jr,’s video,” she said. “Instead of putting people at the center, he emphasized his own political and legal battle against VP Leni.”

“Worse, his statement about being cheated casts doubt on the Supreme Court,” she added. “This is a red flag. It shows that he does not respect our democratic institutions.”

Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson, No. 5 in presidential opinion polls, said he had managed to enlighten voters at his town hall meetings.

“We will leave a legacy for the next elections by improving our election culture from the current one where those who know how to entertain and smooth-talk are the projected winners,” he said in a statement.

Senator and boxing champion Emmanuel “Manny” D. Pacquiao, Sr. said he was confident of winning because he was supported by the masses.

The poor have grown tired of the promises of a better life from traditional politicians, he said in a statement.

His campaign manager Salvador Zamora told the ABS-CBN Channel they expect about 12 million votes from people who were promised free housing during Mr. Pacquiao’s campaign.

He also expects half of the so-called Christian community to vote for the boxing champ. “We expect the winning vote to be somewhere around 16 million to 20 million.” — with Alyssa Nicole O. Tan