EARLY or premature campaigning began everywhere in the Philippines just before the campaign period for the village and youth council elections officially start on May 4.
It happened despite the calls from various groups such as the National Movement for Free Elections and the Legal Network for Truthful Elections urging all candidates not to engage in premature campaigning.
But the Comelec says the practice is not illegal.
In other developments:
• Interior department officer-in-charge Eduardo Año has ordered the Philippine National Police to intensify the checkpoints and other security measures in all election “hot spots” nationwide.
• Senator Sonny Angara on Wednesday exhorted candidates in the coming barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls to show to tell their constituencies how they plan to reinvigorate their roles in nation-building.
Angara said the barangay, the basic political unit of government policies, projects and activities in the community, was positioned to influence and direct the development of the entire country.
“They are much closer to the public. Oftentimes, the public first go to them if they have problems and complaints,” he said.
Comelec spokesman James Arthur Jimenez said premature campaigning was gross.
“It gives an undue advantage to the candidates with deep war chests and it essentially reduces elections to a popularity contest,” Jimenez said in his blog posted on Wednesday.
“We don’t like premature campaigning. The Comelec doesn’t like premature campaigning and yes, it should be illegal, but it is not.”
Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code says “It shall be unlawful 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 ..”
Section 264 of the same code also states that any person found guilty of any election offense shall be punished with one to six years’ imprisonment, disqualification to hold public office, and deprivation of the right to vote.
Jimenez said it used to be, but Republic Act 9369 changed the definition of the word candidate.
“Section 79(a) of the Omnibus Election Code defines a candidate as any person aspiring for or seeking an elective public office, who has filed a certificate of candidacy x x x. The second sentence, third paragraph, Section 15 of RA 8436, as amended by Section 13 of RA 9369, provides that [a]ny person who files his certificate of candidacy within [the period for filing] shall only be considered as a candidate at the start of the campaign period for which he filed his certificate of candidacy. The immediately succeeding proviso in the same third paragraph states that unlawful acts or omissions applicable to a candidate shall take effect only upon the start of the aforesaid campaign period.” With PNA
“So, two things: A person who files a COC (Certificate of Candidacy) is considered a candidate only at the start of the campaign period, and Acts or omissions applicable to a candidate-like premature campaigning―shall take effect only upon the start of the campaign period,” said Jimenez, citing the provisions of RA 9369.
Even if the aspirants officially filed their COCs during the one-week filing period, Jimenez said, “before the start of the campaign period there are literally no candidates yet.
“If there are no candidates in the eyes of the law, then there can be no premature campaigning―in the strict legal sense―even though every fiber of your being knows with utter certainty that what you’re seeing should be called premature campaigning.