Robredo to Congress: Pass a law against premature campaigning
Vice President Leni Robredo has called on Congress to pass a law against premature campaigning and level the playing field between rich and poor candidates.
In a statement on Wednesday, Robredo said she supports a proposal from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to bar candidates from posting campaign materials on the streets, and in mass media outlets before the start of the official campaign period set by law.
“Ang pagpigil muli sa maagang pangangampanya ay kailangan para maging mas patas ang pagtakbo. Nanawagan ako sa ating Kongreso na dinggin ang panawagan ng Comelec, at muling ibalik ang batas laban sa maagang pangangampanya,” the Vice President said.
“Masugid akong sumusuporta sa panawagan ng Comelec na ibalik ang batas laban sa maagang pangangampanya o premature campaigning,” she added
The Omnibus Election Code (OEC) sets the campaign period at 90 days before the election for national elections, 45 days for local elections, and 15 for barangay elections.
According to Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code, it is illegal for “any person, whether or not a voter or candidate, or for any party, or association of persons, to engage in an election campaign or partisan political activity except during the campaign period…”, unless it was done in a political convention or meeting to nominate and introduce a party’s official candidates.
However, a 2009 Supreme Court (SC) ruling practically voided Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code, after it granted the motion for reconsideration of Rosalinda Penera, then-mayoralty candidate of Sta. Monica town in Surigao del Norte.
The motion effectively junked the disqualification case filed by Penera’s opponent against her for early campaigning.
The SC ruled that Penera was not guilty of premature campaigning, as she was not yet an official candidate — as aspiring politicians who filed their certificates of candidacy would only be declared official candidates by the start of the campaign period.
“Matapos maisabatas ang RA 9369, idineklara ng Korte Suprema sa kaso ng Penera v COMELEC na wala nang pagbabawal sa maagang pangangampanya,” Robredo said.
“Dahil sa desisyong ito, nakikita natin na halos isang taon bago mag-eleksyon, laganap na ang mga billboard, tarp, at mensahe sa TV at radyo, ng mga nagbabalak kumandidato,” she added.
Robredo argues that rich candidates have an edge because any form of campaigning prior to the campaign period is not included in the list of campaign expenditures submitted to Comelec after each election.
“At magmula dito, lalong naging magastos ang pagtakbo. Nakalalamang din ang mga kandidatong kayang gumastos ng malaki para sa kampanya, lalo na’t hindi nababantayan ng Comelec ang gastos bago magsimula ang opisyal na kampanya, 90-araw bago ang eleksyon,” she added.
On Monday, Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez asked Congress to pass the amendment on premature campaigning, after some political parties took advantage of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day to campaign.
“Dear Congress, please pass that premature campaigning amendment already. When we talk about premature campaigning this way, it’s to keep up pressure on Congress to close the loophole sooner rather than later,” Jimenez said on his Twitter account.
Recently, the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms has approved a bill seeking to change the definition of an official candidate. If enacted, Senate Bill 2064 will consider a candidate as “official” after he or she submits a certificate of candidacy (COC). /muf
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