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COMELEC SAYS No law vs presidential bets appearing on TV

Posted on: April 15, 2009

No law vs presidential bets appearing on TV

By Anna Valmero
First Posted 13:51:00 04/15/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Inquirer Politics

MANILA, Philippines—Officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) admitted there are no laws banning aspiring presidential candidates from appearing on bulletin boards or in TV commercials.

“Mahirap kontrolin yan [It is difficult to control that], they can find ways to go [around] the law,” said Comelec chairman Jose Melo amid the increasing political figures appearing on bulletin boards and on TV.

Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code and Section 4 of Comelec Resolution 7767 indicates that “it is unlawful for any person or for any political party or association of persons to engage in an election campaign or partisan political activity outside the campaign periods.”

This is also described as premature campaigning.

Premature campaigning is an offense that can disqualify a candidate because it results to an unequal playing field for candidates, according to election laws.

“In my opinion as a lawyer, there are two conditions to be satisfied to declare an act of early campaigning: a person is a candidate and the political activity is done outside the campaign period,”
Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said.

Quoting section 13 of Republic Act 9369, also known as the poll automation law, Sarmiento said: “Any person who files his certificate of candidacy within this period specified by Comelec shall only be considered as a candidate at the start of the campaign period for which he filed his certificate of candidacy; provided, that, unlawful acts or omissions applicable to a candidate shall effect only upon that start of the aforesaid campaign period.”

“Prior to RA 9369, a person is considered a candidate if he has filed his certificate of candidacy, or any registered national, regional or sectoral party, organization or coalition thereof that has filed a manifestation to participate under the party-list system,” added Sarmiento, now quoting section 79 of the Omnibus Election Code.

“With RA 9369, even if a person has filed a CoC [certificate of candidacy] for the 2010 elections on or before November 30 (early deadline of CoC filing), he or she will only be recognized as candidates only at the start of campaign period,” said Sarmiento.

The early deadline for CoC filing on Nov. 30 gives Comelec enough time to collate the list of candidates to be printed in special paper ballots for the 2010 elections.

Campaign period starts 90 days before the elections for national positions and 45 days for local positions, excluding the day before and day of polls.

Asked if election campaigns done during the “gap months” between the end of CoC filing and start of campaign period sometime in February constitute an election offense, Sarmiento admitted there is no premature campaigning from the legal perspective and based on RA 9369 provisions.

In previous elections, the filing of CoC, the election campaign period and the election day, were done in succession.

Early campaigning is defined as political partisan activities that promote or oppose a candidate and is done outside the campaign period identified.

Citing the Supreme Court ruling on the 2006 “Lanot vs. Eusebio case,” Sarmiento said presidential bets who appear on television are not yet candidates under the law. Their supposed appearances in bulletin boards and on TV are considered “freedom of expression” because they have not yet officially filed their candidacy.

Given the lack of legislation to prohibit “premature or early campaigning,” Melo noted “it is very probable” that more political advertisements and billboards would appear as the 2010 election draws near.

“You have to understand that the resources of Comelec are limited and we aim to focus on more important things than focus on this issue that comes later,” added Melo.

The Comelec is currently conducting the bidding for the automated election system, which Melo dubs would prevent cheating and dagdag bawas (vote padding and vote shaving) in the 2010 polls.


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