By Rey Panaligan
Premature or early campaigning is no longer an election offense under the country’s automated election law that repealed the old manual election system.
Thus, personalities perceived to be eyeing senatorial posts in next year’s elections can go ahead with their posters and activities, Supreme Court (SC) Spokesman Lawyer Theodore O. Te said Thursday.
Te said “there is a Supreme Court decision that removed premature campaign as an election offense.”
He said in 2009 the SC changed the election campaign landscape in the case filed against then Sta. Monica, Surigao del Norte Mayor Rosalinda Penera.
The 2009 SC ruling reversed an earlier decision that upheld the disqualification of Penera in the 2007 mid-term elections.
Te said the decision effectively removed the rule on premature campaign and has allowed candidates to campaign ahead of the prescribed period under the Omnibus Election Code.
The case against Penera was filed by her rival, Edgar Andanar, who accused her of premature campaigning in violation of Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code.
While the SC initially ruled in favor of Andanar, the decision was reversed two months later with a ruling that premature campaigning is no longer considered an offense under the Automated Election Law, Republic Act 8436 as amended by RA 9369), Te said.
He pointed out that under the ruling, the infomercials and other advertisements of politicians joining the elections are considered as “exercise of freedom of expression” by candidates.
He also stressed that the provision in the new election law had effectively repealed Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code that prohibits candidates from campaigning ahead of the prescribed period.
Citing the decision, Te said the SC ruled that the legislative intent of lawmakers in passing the poll automation law clearly repealed the provision of the Omnibus Election Code against premature campaigning.
He also said the SC said that the only purpose for the early filing of certificate of candidacy (COC) is to allow the Commission on Elections ample time for the printing of official ballots.
Criticisms have been aired against the supposed endorsements for the reported Senate bid of Special Assistant to the President Secretary Christopher Go who had denied he has a hand in such endorsements.
Also criticized was the presence of Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos in almost all town and city fiestas and other activities in the country.