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Comelec can’t ban poll ads in Pacquiao fight—exec

Posted on: November 4, 2009

Comelec can’t ban poll ads in Pacquiao fight—exec

(Note: Also available here)

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:52:00 11/04/2009

Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Politics, Inquirer Politics, Elections, Pacquiao

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) cannot regulate political advertisements by 2010 candidates which will be aired during the fight of boxing champ Manny Pacquiao on November 15, an official said.

Since the boxing fight will be before the period for the filing of certificates of candidacy (CoC) set on November 20 to 30, anyone has a right to free expression and announcements, said Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal.

Larrazabal made the statement after the Bayan Muna political party urged Comelec on Wednesday to ban political ads during Pacquiao’s fight with Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas because it was an election offense under premature campaigning and should be counted in the allowed airtime for the candidates.

“Since it [the boxing fight] is before the CoC filing, they are not covered under premature campaigning yet. When they have filed their CoCs and the campaign period has started, that is the time as stated under the law that we can regulate public utterances with regard to campaign because they have made official their intent to run,” said Larrazabal.

Last May, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, who was among those who aired political ads during the breaks of the Pacquiao-Hatton Match in Los Angeles, was criticized by Filipinos over the social networking site Twitter, said Kabataan party representative Mong Palatino.

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 period.”

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, said Larrazabal.

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

The campaign period starts 90 days before 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, he added.

Larrazabal said the Comelec was awaiting the final result of the Peñera case on premature campaigning before the Supreme Court, after which they will issue an order clarifying the “gray areas” between the provisions contained in the Omnibus Election Code and RA 9369.

For future elections, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said legislative action was needed to update the provisions on premature campaign and to harmonize it with the provisions included in RA 9369.

“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 and the period when it can be cited as an election offense,” said Jimenez in a separate interview.

Larrazabal added the poll body was studying the proposal of the Bureau of Internal Revenue to tax political advertisements. The new tax scheme, to be implemented through a project called “Iboto mo Kandidato, Nagbabayad ng Buwis na Wasto,” aims to maximize tax collection during the election period.

Moreover, Larrazabal will head a team to investigate the voter records of 691 centenarians in Taguig that were born Jan. 1, 1901.

Larrazabal said the team would investigate if the centenarian records were caused by a computer bug or error in encoding; the team would locate the persons listed and cleanse the voters list if necessary.

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