Bill banning early campaign nears passage
In a blow to attention-seeking politicians, the Senate is a step closer to passing a bill that would “criminalize” early campaigning by electoral candidates, including the placement of political advertisements long before the election period.
The Senate committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation has endorsed a bill that would restore an obsolete provision in the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines prohibiting premature campaigning.
The panel chaired by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III submitted on Oct. 18, its report on Senate Bill 2064 redefining “candidate” and paving the way for penalties against early campaigners.
Under the bill authored by Senators Pimentel, Leila de Lima and Richard Gordon, “a person shall be considered a candidate the moment he files his certificate of candidacy (COC) within the period provided by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).”
This means that any form of partisan political activity by candidates prior to filing their COC or way before the start of the official campaign period will be considered “premature campaigning” and therefore unlawful.
Under the existing law, Republic Act No. 9369, a person seeking an elective position is considered a candidate only during the entire campaign period.
The 11-year-old law has effectively decriminalized “premature campaigning” and has tied the hands of the Comelec from going after candidates who campaign early.
“The unfair repercussions of this rule are far and wide,” Gordon said in a statement.
“It propagates political inequality, as it unduly favors rich or popular candidates over poor or less popular candidates. It also negates transparency and accountability, as it shamelessly excludes such premature campaigning from the regulation of campaign finance and the limitations on election campaign and expenditures,” he said.
Under the election code, premature campaigning is punishable by imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years, as well as disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage.
‘Too much to be ignored’
“The barrage of political advertisements on TV and radio and the obvious electioneering or campaigning by many candidates way before the start of the official campaign period in the last elections were too much to be ignored,” Gordon said.
Pimentel will sponsor the approval of the bill upon the resumption of the regular session next month.
The other signatories to the report were Senators Francis Pangilinan, Gordon, Grace Poe, Loren Legarda, Manny Pacquiao, Francis Escudero, Nancy Binay, Sherwin Gatchalian, Risa Hontiveros, Juan Miguel Zubiri and Franklin Drilon.
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