A campaign calling for reflection on the vote in the elections on May 5 in Panama has created controversy after the removal of billboards with this message by the Electoral Tribunal (ET), which considered that it violates the electoral norms when identifying people in a political way.
The campaign promoted by the Movimiento Independiente (Movin) is called "Pela el ojo", it included images of some candidates for deputies and was visible on billboards that were removed this Sunday in different points of Panama City by the entity of elections.
Movin members told to Acan-Efe Monday that they will continue with the "civic campaign" with billboards, but that they will now rethink it due to the decision adopted by the Electoral Tribunal, which they said would restrict freedom of expression.
The magistrate of the ET, Eduardo Valdés Escofery, told journalists that civic campaigns, of values, are allowed as long as they are not linked to the identity of a person.
The removal of Movin's campaign is based on current electoral regulations, which prohibit natural or legal persons, either in their own capacity or on behalf of third parties, from hiring or donating electoral propaganda for or against parties or candidates, argued the entity of elections.
The regulations exempt from this prohibition, "both parties and candidates, within the campaign periods", which will begin on March 4, according to a public statement of the highest electoral instance.
The sanctions applicable to these cases are, according to the ET, "in the middle, a daily fine of ten times the commercial value of the propaganda, to the third party responsible for the propaganda, a fine of fifty to a thousand dollars".
Annette Planells, from Movin, told to Acan-Efe that on Monday they attended a meeting with the electoral magistrates, who, she said, "are interpreting our citizen campaign (of alert) as a political campaign".
The electoral authorities "restrict us the freedom (of expression) to be able to demand accountability, which is what we do with the 'pela el ojo' campaign" in the face of the popular election for May 5, 2019, said Planells .
She indicated that it was the case of a billboard removed in which two deputies from the National Assembly of Panama, one from the party Cambio Democrático (CD) and another from the Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD), opposed, saying "we are waiting for you to publish their registration form (of appointments in the Parliament.) Pela el ojo Panamá".
Several registration form of employees of the deputies to the National Assembly have been a center of controversy in Panama in the last year, and even the Comptroller General has ordered to suspend payments since cases have been discovered in people charged without working, among others irregularities.
"They consider that this is a political campaign and we are explaining that it is a campaign demanding accountability, which is what we have done since the movement was created in 2014", said the activist.
Planells assured that the electoral body has not notified Movin of any sanctions after the removal of two billboards, with a value of 600 dollars of printing each, and a cost of 2,000 dollars for its rent to the supplier.
She stressed that they will appeal to the Electoral Tribunal and also present before the Panamanian Supreme Court an action of "control of conventionality", since, she said, the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights "protects our freedom of expression by any means" and that "is above the Electoral Law".
The activist stressed that they will continue with the campaign through social networks and that they will rethink the hurdles "because we will have to see what we put in these that can express our message to citizens that they vote well, that they vote informed".
He acknowledged that this is "very difficult because they are not leaving us many alternatives, because nothing that is aimed at the person is allowed".