Thursday, October 22, 2015

A void in the law: Comelec can’t stop early poll campaigning

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MANILA, Philippines - Due to a Supreme Court (SC) ruling in November 2009, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) cannot do anything about candidates who campaign before the start of the official campaign period next year.

According to Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, premature campaigning is no longer in the statute book because of the SC’s decision on the Comelec vs. Penera case.

Bautista said the SC ruling had superceded the election laws, which used to consider electioneering outside of the campaign period as an election offense.

“If you look at the decision of the Supreme Court on the Penera case, you can only engage in prohibited campaign acts during the campaign period. Essentially, before that, you are free to do anything,” he noted.

The Comelec was planning to come up with guidelines for activities that are allowed and not allowed in the wake of the Penera ruling.

Bautista maintained that a draft had been formulated but it does not prohibit campaigning activities. 

“What we are saying is that there is a void in the law,” he added.

“I think the call is on Congress to be able to come up with a law that would spell out with clarity which actions are allowed from this period until the campaign period and which should not be allowed,” he added.

The SC ruling upheld the provisions in Republic Act 9369 – the Poll Automation Law – that “any person who files his certificate of candidacy (COC) shall only be considered as a candidate at the start of the campaign period” and that “unlawful acts applicable to a candidate shall be in effect only upon start of the campaign period.

Under manual elections, the campaign period starts on the day after the last day of filing of the certificate of candidacy (COC).

But since the automation of elections in 2010, the filing of COC was pushed forward to allow the Comelec to pre-print the names of the candidates, positions and polling precincts on the ballots.

For the May 9, 2016 elections, the campaign period for president, vice president, senators and party-list groups runs from Feb. 9 to May 7, while for local positions it will be from March 5 to May 7.

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