Macalintal to private property owners hit by ‘Oplan Baklas’: Block entry, file cases
MANILA, Philippines — Private property owners who are affected by the “Oplan Baklas” (operations to remove illegally posted election campaign materials) of the Commission on Election (Comelec) can block poll officers from entering their premises, said election lawyer Romulo Macalintal.
In addition, Macalintal in a press briefing hosted by Vice President Leni Robredo’s campaign team on Thursday said those affected by Comelec’s “Oplan Baklas” can file cases before the Supreme Court (SC), as Comelec’s actions are supposedly “arbitrary and unconstitutional”.
“Yes, pupwede na silang mag-file, they can file a case before the Supreme Court, because sasabihin nila na they were affected by the implementation of the said resolution of the Comelec, and also to protect the rights and interest of those people who might be similarly situated,” Macalintal told reporters at Robredo’s volunteer center in Katipunan, Quezon City.
“Yes, oo, you should refuse entry, exercise your right, ipaglaban niyo po ang inyong karapatan kasi karapatan ninyo ‘yan, na huwag kayong magpapasok sa bahay ninyo ng kung sino mang tao na ayaw niyong papasukin,” he added.
Comelec drew flak on Wednesday after its personnel started removing allegedly oversized and illegally posted campaign materials of some presidential candidates, even as the candidates’ supporters maintained that the campaign materials were posted in private property.
As “Oplan Baklas” has affected the camps of various candidates, Macalintal said those affected may explore the possibility of filing a class suit — where supporters of different candidates may jointly file complaints against the Comelec before the SC.
“Pupwede ngang class suit ‘yan eh, they can file a class suit before the Supreme Court, para ‘yong mga other parties ay makasama lang, hindi lamang si Robredo, kun’di pati sila Marcos, sila Leody de Guzman, sila Manny Pacquiao, lahat na sila ay pu-pwede silang sumama,” he said.
What the Comelec should have done, Macalintal said, was to write a letter asking private citizens to remove the campaign materials if they see any such violation. If the private party will not comply, the poll body may then file a case.
“Hindi papasok ‘yan and I’m sure the Comelec knows what to do on this matter. I’m sure the Comelec knows na hindi sila pwedeng pumasok kapag hindi sila pinayagan ng may-ari. What the Comelec can do is, write them a letter, ask them to remove. And if they do not remove, and if Comelec believes there is a case against them, then they can file a case,” he noted.
During the briefing, Macalintal presented videos taken by Robredo’s supporters in Isabela province, where campaign materials are being removed from a private property, with the help of police and fire officers.
Macalintal said that such actions are illegal, because any officer should present a search warrant or a warrant of seizure before entering a private property.
“Ito maliwanag na maliwanag, trespass to dwelling. Saka bakit ang pulis nag-aassist? Walang karapatan ang pulis na mag-assist, nando’n lang sila para to maintain peace and security,” he maintained.
While he assured Comelec that they agree with rules on campaign materials in public areas, he urged the poll body to focus instead on other election-related problems like vote-buying.
“Ito maliwanag hindi public property to ah. Bawal sa public property, we agree to that. Pero ito maliwanag na private property ‘to, na hindi pwedeng basta-basta na lang pasukin without any warrant of seizure,” he said of the Comelec’s seizure of materials in Isabela.
“Napakadaming issues ang kanilang dapat gawin, ‘yon lamang vote-buying, ay hindi nila masugpo ‘yan […] pagkatapos ‘to gagawin mo ma pa ‘yan, tapos papasukin mo ‘yong bahay ng tao kahit wala kang warrant of arrest? Eh ‘yon ngang kahit meron kang isang libong granada, isang libong machine gun sa loob ng bahay mo, hindi pwedeng pumasok ang pulis without any warrant of arrest, warrant of seizure,” he added.
Comelec’s initial “Oplan Baklas” covered the cities of Pasay, Makati, Mandaluyong, Quezon City, Pasig, and Caloocan in Metro Manila. The alleged illegal posters were removed by personnel of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and by Comelec officials.
However, several supporters of Robredo cried foul after Comelec also ordered the removal of materials inside their campaign volunteer headquarters in Quezon City. Similarly, the spokesperson of presidential aspirant and former senator Bongbong Marcos said the Comelec may need to strike a balance between implementing their mandate and respecting freedom of expression.