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Bets warned vs early campaigning

MANILA, Philippines - Aspirants for elective posts next year were warned yesterday against premature campaigning after the Supreme Court (SC) removed a town mayor in Surigao del Norte for electioneering a day before the official campaign period.

Lawyer Ferdinand Rafanan, Commission on Elections law department director, said the SC decision unseating Mayor Rosalinda Penera of Sta. Monica, Surigao del Norte has given the poll body more teeth in going after politicians who might start campaigning after filing their certificates of candidacy between Nov. 20 and 30.

“With the decision of SC, they should be afraid,” he said.

“We learned from this decision that section. 80 of Omnibus Election Code is still in effect.”

Upholding the Comelec, the SC disqualified Penera from the 2007 mayoralty elections for holding a motorcade around Sta. Monica town after filing her certificate of candidacy.

She started electioneering a day before the campaign period would have begun under the law.

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Penera won against her rival, Edgar Andanar, who filed the disqualification case against her.

Under Batas Pambansa 881, the Omnibus Election Code, a candidate for an elective post cannot engage in any campaign after he or she had filed his or her certificate of candidacy.

The campaign period for aspirants for local elective posts begins on March 26 and ends on May 8, 2010.

On the other hand, those seeking the presidency, vice-presidency, seats in the Senate, and party-list groups can campaign from Feb. 9 to May 8, 2010.

SC dismisses mayor’s defense

Voting 8 -7, SC justices dismissed Penera’s defense that she did not violate law since she could not be considered a candidate when she held the motorcade because she had not yet filed her certificate of candidacy.

The SC said the rule on the

90-day campaign period prior to election day should apply even to aspirants who have not yet filed certificates of candidacy.

“We cannot stress strongly enough that premature campaigning is a pernicious act that is continuously threatening to undermine the conduct of fair and credible elections in our country, no matter how great or small the acts constituting the same are,” read the SC decision.

In his complaint, Andanar said a day before the campaign period for the 2007 election, Penera summoned supporters to join her in filing her COC and a motorcade followed.

“Obviously, it is only at the start of the campaign period, when the person officially becomes a candidate, that the undue and iniquitous advantage of his/her prior acts, constituting premature campaigning, shall accrue to his/her benefit,” read the SC decision.

However, Perena said the motorcade was but a couple of jeepneys used by her supporters who accompanied her when she filed her candidacy.

No speech was made by any person nor was there “grandstanding for the purpose of raising the hands of the candidates in the motorcade,” she added.

The SC decision was written by Associate Justice Minita Chico-Nazario.

Concurring in the ruling were Associate Justices Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Renato Corona, Antonio Eduardo Nachura, Teresita

Leonardo-de Castro, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo and Roberto Abad.

Dissenting were Chief Justice Reynato Puno and Associate Justices Leonardo Quisumbing, Antonio Carpio, Conchita Carpio-Morales, Presbiterio Velasco Jr., Arturo Brion, and Diosdado Peralta.

Santiago, Gordon hail SC ruling

Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Richard Gordon lauded the SC decision.

Santiago said the candidates running in 2010 must be wary of the SC decision against Mayor Penera.

Gordon said the SC decision has strengthened the argument that aspirants for the 2010 elections are violating the law by clogging the tri-media with infomercials.

“The law clearly states that there is a specific period of time when campaigning is allowed,” he said.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is laudable and it should be a strong warning to all candidates that they must adhere to the law.

“The purpose of the campaign period is to level the playing field for all candidates. The whole law was formulated to make sure that nobody should be allowed to campaign before the campaign period.” — With Edu Punay, Aurea Calica

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