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Early campaigners face poll disqualification

Posted on: September 18, 2009

Early campaigners face poll disqualification
September 16, 2009 08:19:00
Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines—Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials warned aspirants who have posted billboards, tarpaulins or have made infomercials promoting themselves as candidates that they may be disqualified from next year’s elections due to early or premature campaigning.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento and legal department director Ferdinand Rafanan lauded the Supreme Court ruling on Sept. 11 that upholds Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code, which states that “it is unlawful for any person, whether or not a voter or candidate or for a party, to engage in election campaigning or acts that promote his candidacy or the defeat of another outside the campaign period.”

Premature campaigning is an offense that can disqualify a candidate to run for the post he aspires or a non-candidate for “electioneering,” according to election laws, because it can promote an unequal playing field for candidates, said Sarmiento.

When a person—who prior to the campaign period has done acts defined as election campaign in Section 79 of the Omnibus Election Code—has filed a certificate of candidacy as declaration of his intent to run, “he can be prosecuted for committing election offense on premature campaigning because there is no law that states campaigning before the start of the campaign period is lawful,” said Sarmiento, quoting the Supreme Court ruling on “Penera vs Andanar and Comelec.”

Rafanan said that with the new ruling, disqualification for acts of premature campaigning can be sought when a person officially becomes a candidate, at the start of the campaign period.

In early reports, Rafanan said Comelec had a misinterpretation that premature campaigning is “impossible to be committed by candidates” when Section 15 of Republic Act 8436 and Section 13 of Republic Act 9369 or the poll automation law state that “a person, even after filing his certificate of candidacy (CoC), will only be considered a candidate at the start of the campaign period.”

Sarmiento and Rafanan lauded the new Supreme Court ruling as it points out Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code “remains relevant and applicable” to level the playing field for candidates despite the provisions on RA 9369 and 8436.

With the new ruling, Sarmiento said it is but prudent for all aspirants, either local or presidential bets, especially those with infomercials prior to filing their CoCs, to adhere to the law and perform campaigning only during the assigned campaign period by Comelec or else face disqualification.

“I welcome this ruling and that the Supreme Court wants to level the playing field and that there are repercussions for violators of premature campaigning. This will have a tectonic effect on candidates,” he said.

Rafanan said he anticipates a huge number of disqualification cases to be filed before the Comelec based on the new ruling and added concerned parties can collect evidences now to support cases they will file against early campaigners at the start of the campaign period sometime in February next y

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