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Melo: Comelec can’t act on ‘early campaigns’

Posted on: May 20, 2009

Melo: Comelec can’t act on ‘early campaigns’

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 07:08:00 05/20/2009

Filed Under: Politics, Elections, Eleksyon 2010, Advertising

MANILA, Philippines—Commission on Elections Chairman Jose Melo admitted on Tuesday that the poll body cannot act on premature or early campaigning of several aspiring presidential and local candidates for the 2010 elections.

“I’ve said time and again mahirap (this is a difficult issue). It is up to the people to judge these early campaigning styles [of aspiring candidates]. You know if it is an honest-to-goodness endorsement or a political campaign. In 2010, the public will decide,” said Melo.

On Tuesday, the party-list group Social Justice Society and Abakada Guro filed a petition asking the poll body to stop early campaign advertisements on media endorsing Senators Manuel Villar and Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, as well as Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay.

In the petition, Samson Alcantara, president of SJS and Abakada Guro, said the three personalities “have been regularly appearing in TV and radio espousing supposed causes such as Villar’s OFW, Roxas’ Padyak Anak and Binay’s Ganito Kami sa Makati ads.”

Alcantara cited Article XI of the Constitution and Republic Act 6713 that prohibits public officials from doing acts contrary to law and public interest.

“It is difficult to control that; they can find ways to go over the law,” said Melo on the slew of political figures appearing on bulletin boards and on TV.

According to Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code and Section 4 of Comelec Resolution 7767, which define early or premature campaigning, “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.”

Premature campaigning is an offense that can disqualify a candidate to run for the post he aspires, according to election laws, because it can promote unequal playing field for candidates.

In a separate interview, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the candidates for 2010 will only be known by November 30, the deadline of filing of certificates of candidacy.

Jimenez noted that a provision on Republic Act 9369, or the poll automation law, stated that persons running for the 2010 elections “will only be recognized as candidates at the start of campaign period and not after filing their CoCs on November.”

The advertisements appearing on several media are not considered political advertisements by legal fiction—first, they have not filed their CoCs, and there is no schedule of campaign yet, said Jimenez.

The campaign period starts 90 days before the elections for national positions and 45 days for local positions, excluding the day before and on the day of the polls, according to election laws.

“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.

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