MANILA — Election lawyer Emil Marañon urged Congress to pass a law banning families of embassy officials from engaging in partisan political activities or electioneering on a March 6 ABS-CBN TeleRadyo interview.
“Dapat i-address ng Kongreso na hopefully ma-extend sana ‘yong prohibition, on the ban on electioneering or partisan political activity doon sa kasapi ng embahada natin, both career and non-career,” Marañon said.
Marañon’s suggestion follows an incident involving the wife of the Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto who was posted on Twitter wearing a shirt with the face of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and standing in front of a tarpaulin of Marcos and running mate Sara Duterte-Carpio while urging the Filipino community there to cast their vote in the 2022 elections.
“Hindi ko po hinihiling na isuporta ninyo ‘yong kandidato ko kasi nasa sa inyo po ‘yon. That is your right to choose the candidates you’d like to vote for. Pero kung tatanungin ninyo po ako kung sino ang iboboto ko, eh nandito po eh, nakasulat sa T-shirt ko. Ngayon kung gusto ninyo po akong samahan, nasa sa inyo po ‘yon,” the wife said on video.
“Ilocano po ako. Do not waste this moment, because this might just be, itong pagkakataong ito, it might just be the turning point so that we will have another Ilocano president.
Ilocano po ako kaya that’s where I’m coming from. And I really believe in my presidential candidate,” she added.
In a report by Rappler, President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Alonto in 2017. Alonto is the son of late senator Domocao Alonto and cousin of late Mindanao Development Authority chair Abul Khayr Alonto.
Alonto, the report noted, also actively campaigned for Duterte in the US while serving as the over-all coordinator of the Brotherhood for Duterte USA in North America before becoming an ambassador.
Even though Alonto did not directly campaign for Marcos, Marañon said family members are an extension of the ambassador.
“Hindi man directly magiging liable siya ng civil service suits but by extension, it reflects on the position din on the ambassador,” Marañon said.
“(The incident) is something not only unethical but it is actually a breach of the neutrality expected from the Philippine embassy,” he added.
The 1987 Constitution states that “civil service employees are banned from directly or indirectly engaging in any electioneering or partisan political campaign.”
Marañon explained that “ambassadors hold influence over overseas Filipino workers, especially in countries where they are dependent on the embassies for help when they experience abuse from employers.
“Iniisip mo parati na kailangan kang sumunod para if in case na may mangyari sa’yo, may tatakbuhan ka, may poprotekta sa’yo,” he said.
“(Embassies) become the extension of Comelec, they become the Comelec abroad,” he said, noting the situation is further complicated by the fact that embassy officials administer overseas voting.
In another report by ABS-CBN News, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on March 5, has immediately ordered the return of Ambassador Alonto to the Philippines “for home office consultations” following the incident.
The DFA is currently probing the incident, noting it “regularly reminds personnel here and at Foreign Service Posts on the prohibition against engagement, whether directly or indirectly, in any electioneering or partisan political activity.”
“It does not condone acts that go against the Omnibus Election Code, the Overseas Voting Act of 2013 and the COMELEC-CSC Joint Circular number 001, series of 2016,” the agency said.
Marañon, on the other hand, lauded the DFA’s “very strong and swift” action over the incident.