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SAYS POLL EXEC Legislation vs early campaigning needed

Posted on: April 27, 2009

SAYS POLL EXEC
Legislation vs early campaigning needed

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:53:00 04/27/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Eleksyon 2010, Politics, Laws

MANILA, Philippines—The issue on early campaigning will be resolved only through proper legislation, an election official said Monday.

“To prevent premature campaigning, we have to decouple, through legislative means, the concepts of campaigning and candidacy; specifically, the concept of campaigning should be expanded to include acts of self-promotion by those who manifested through words and actions their ‘clear interest’ to run for public office,” said Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman James Jimenez.

The poll body is under fire for not being able to go after some politicians already engaged in early campaigning for the 2010 elections.

“By legal fiction, one is judged of premature campaigning first if you are a candidate or has filed a certificate of candidacy, and second if you hold campaigning prior to the set campaign period. With RA [Republic Act] 9369, the filing of certificate of candidacy is made earlier to consolidate the candidates list in preparation for poll automation. And secondly, it has a provision that one is considered a candidate only at the start of the campaign period,” said Jimenez.

Thus, the Comelec spokesman said, there is no law prohibiting aspiring candidates or persons who declared plans to run for the upcoming 2010 polls to appear on bulletins with greetings or in TV commercials.

In an earlier report, Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the current appearance on TV and billboards of aspiring political figures for the next elections are considered “freedom of expression,” based on Supreme Court’s ruling on the 2006 Lanot vs. Eusebio case.

With the legislation of Republic Act 9369 or the poll automation law, persons who filed certificates of candidacy on or before November 30—the early deadline set by the Comelec—will only be recognized as candidates at the start of campaign period sometime in February, said Jimenez.

As defined in Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code and Section 4 of Comelec Resolution 7767, “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,” commonly called early or premature campaigning.

Campaign period starts 90 days before the elections for national positions, 45 days for local positions, and 15 days for barangay (village) positions, excluding the day before and day of polls, said Jimenez.

“Election laws have to be amended, we need a clear definition of what campaign or partisan political activity is, if it can be expanded to include any activity that favors the election of a person who has a clear intent to run for public office,” said Jimenez.

In 2008, Senator Miriam-Santiago filed a petition to the poll body, urging the Comelec to investigate the offense of premature campaigning and to issue a preliminary injunction and restraining order to violators, said Jimenez.

To this, the en banc ruled in a resolution that “partisan political activity or any form of election campaign outside the campaign period provided under Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code can be an offense only if the offender is a ‘candidate’ for public office as provided in the election law,” said Jimenez.

While the en banc admitted in the same resolution that Section 79 and 80 of the Omnibus Election Code “ought to be clarified and remedied, the Commission is not the proper forum for the purpose.”

“What is needed is a legislation from either chamber of Congress to resolve this loophole on premature campaigning,” said Jimenez.

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