MANILA, Philippines?The Supreme Court Wednesday ruled that there is no law banning politicians from airing infomercials and putting up campaign billboards and posters even after they have filed their certificates of candidacies and before the start of the official campaign period.
In a resolution that reversed its September 2009 decision removing a Surigao del Norte town mayor for engaging in ?premature campaigning,? the tribunal said that a candidate is not liable for any election offense like premature campaigning before the start of the campaign period.
It clarified that the Automated Election Law, or Republic Act 8436, provides that a person who has filed a certificate of candidacy is not a candidate until the campaign period starts.
?In layman?s language, this means that a candidate is liable for an election offense only for acts done during the campaign period, not before,? the high court said.
?The law is clear as daylight?any election offense that may be committed by a candidate under any election law cannot be committed before the start of the campaign period,? it said.
This was a reversal of the high court?s September 2009 decision finding Rosalinda Penera, the mayor of Sta. Monica, Surigao del Norte, guilty of premature campaigning in the 2007 elections and stripping her of her position.
After filing her certificate of candidacy for the 2007 polls, Penera held a motorcade to encourage people to vote her into office. The court said the motorcade constituted premature campaigning because it was held before the start of the official campaign period.
Under the law, the campaign period for candidates running for national posts start three months before May 10, or election day. The campaign period for local posts is even shorter.
The Comelec promptly warned would-be candidates that their infomercials that had been airing over radio, television and print would have to stop once they filed their CoCs or they would risk being charged in court as the high court decision had confirmed that there was such a crime as premature campaigning.
In Wednesday?s decision, the Supreme Court clarified that the poll automation law provides for the early filing of CoCs to give the Comelec ample time to print the ballots.
Supreme Court spokesperson Midas Marquez explained that those running for office in the 2010 elections may continue to air their infomercials and post billboards and posters even after they have filed their certificates of candidacies.
?Their filing of CoCs should not stop them from coming out with their ads,? said Marquez at a news conference to announce the Supreme Court decision.
?That would be part of the freedom of expression,? he added.