CANDIDATES filing their certificates of candidacy for village and youth elections on Oct. 30 set up camp outside a mall in Manila midnight of Saturday to be first in line when the Commission on Elections opens. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

AN election watchdog on Friday said some government workers and officials have started engaging in campaign-related activities for the 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

“The more common [cases] would be the use of barangay vehicles and candidate materials being posted near barangay premises,” Eric Jude O. Alvia, secretary general of the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), said in a phone call interview with BusinessWorld.

Electioneering and partisan political activity refer to acts that promote the election or defeat of a candidate or party to public office, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) said in an e-mailed press release on Friday.

The prohibition of electioneering and partisan activities is mentioned in the 1987 Constitution and the CSC-Commission on Elections (Comelec) Circular No. 1, series of 2016, which can lead to suspension and/or dismissal, depending on the offense.

Prior to the campaign period, which started on Oct. 19 and will end on Oct. 28, Mr. Alvia said that Namfrel instructed its volunteer chapters to observe and report any instance of local governments supporting potential candidates, especially through projects in the guise of delivering social services such as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps.

“This is also part of the responsibilities of the Comelec’s Anti-Epal [Task Force],” he said on the dedicated arm of the Comelec in charge of issuing corresponding show cause orders for those who violate the imposed election and campaign regulations.

The CSC reminded government officials to refrain from participating in electioneering and partisan activities.

“The Commission acknowledges civil servants’ shared desire to contribute to improved public service delivery through electoral participation,” said Karlo Alexei B. Nograles, CSC chairperson.

“However, we must remain mindful not to engage in electioneering or partisan activities during this period,” he said. “This precautionary measure underscores our commitment to maintaining the integrity and neutrality of the public service.”

The prohibition of such activities covers all civil service members, career officers holding political offices in an acting or officer-in-charge capacity, and active members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, alongside employees on leave of absence, according to the CSC.

“Civil servants, nonetheless, are allowed to cast their votes, express their views on current political problems or issues, mention the names of candidates or parties they support, and publicly express their opinions or engage in discussions of probable issues in a forthcoming election, or on attributes of or criticisms against probable candidates to be nominated on a forthcoming political party convention,” the CSC said.

Social media interaction is allowed as long as government workers do not explicitly solicit support for or against a candidate or party during the campaign period, the CSC noted.

Government employees found in direct or indirect engagement involving said activities will be given a penalty of one month and one day to six months suspension for the first offense, and dismissed from service for the second offense, according to the 2017 Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service.—Miguel Hanz L. Antivola