The omnipresent posters and activities of politicians and personalities widely perceived as premature campaigning are allowed under the automated election law, SC spokesman Theodore Te said yesterday.
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Nothing illegal with premature campaigning — Supreme Court
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - July 13, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Personalities eyeing senatorial posts in next year’s midterm elections are not violating any law with their early campaign activities, the Supreme Court (SC) has said. 

The omnipresent posters and activities of politicians and personalities widely perceived as premature campaigning are allowed under the automated election law, SC spokesman Theodore Te said yesterday.

“There is a Supreme Court decision that removed premature campaign as an election offense,” Te said.

He cited the 2009 SC ruling on the disqualification case of then mayor Rosalinda Penera of Sta. Monica, Surigao del Norte town that changed the rule on premature campaign, which used to be an election offense under the manual election system.

“The law itself doesn’t define it as an offense because it defines candidacy and campaigning very specifically,” Te said, referring to the premature campaign.

The SC ruling means that personalities who plan to join the midterm elections in May next year and have started campaigning this early – even if they continue to deny it – do not violate the Automated Election Law or Republic Act 8436 as amended by RA 9369 and will not face disqualification for it.

It was promulgated on Nov. 25, 2009 when the high tribunal reversed its Sept. 11, 2009 decision upholding the disqualification of Penera in the 2007 midterm polls.

The law effectively removed the rule on premature campaigning and allowed candidates to campaign ahead of the prescribed period under the Omnibus Election Code.

The case stemmed from a disqualification case filed against Penera by her rival, Edgar Andanar, who accused the mayor of premature campaigning in violation of Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code.

The high court initially favored Andanar and upheld the ruling of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), but reversed the decision two months after.

The SC ruled that premature campaigning is no longer considered an offense under the automated election law, which sets the campaign period for national polls in February next year and for local elective posts in March next year.

The provision in the new election law had effectively repealed Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code that prohibits candidates from campaigning ahead of the prescribed period, the SC stressed.

It said the legislative intent of lawmakers in passing the poll automation law repealed the provision of the Omnibus Election Code against premature campaigning.

The SC said the only purpose for the early filing of certificate of candidacy was to give the Comelec more time for the printing of official ballots.

Under the ruling, infomercials and other advertisements of politicians joining the 2016 elections are considered as “exercise of freedom of expression” by candidates.

Administration critics questioned the posters supposedly endorsing the reported Senate bid of Special Assistant to the President Secretary Christopher “Bong” Go, who has said he had no hand in the spreading of such materials.

He said his presence in relief operations did not involve any public funds.

Also slammed by critics is Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, who has been appearing in practically all fiestas and activities nationwide.  

AUTOMATED ELECTION LAW COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS SUPREME COURT THEODORE TE
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