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Premature poll campaign law can't stop infomercials

September 17, 2009 5:45pm
2010 ELECTIONS CALENDAR OF ACTIVITIES


AUG. 17, 2009: Last day for filing of petitions for registration of political parties, and for parties, organizations, and coalitions under the party-list system of representation.

NOV. 20, 2009 to NOV. 30, 2009: Filing of certificates of candidacy for all elective positions. During the period, registered party-list groups may also file manifestations of intent to participate in the party-list elections.

JAN. 10, 2010 to JUNE 9, 2010: Election period

Prohibited activities during the period include the alteration of territory of a precinct or establishment of a new precinct; the bearing, carrying and transporting firearms and other deadly weapons in pubic places; suspension of local elective officials; and transfer of officers and employees in the civil service

FEB. 9, 2010 to MAY 8, 2010: Campaign period for candidates for president, vice-president, senators, and party-list groups

MARCH 26, 2010 to MAY 8, 2010: Campaign period for candidates for posts at the the House of Representatives, provincial, city, and municipal governments.

APRIL 10, 2010 to MAY 10, 2010, 3 pm: Casting of votes by oversees absentee voters

MAY 10, 2010: Casting of votes by voters in the Philippines from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Source: Comelec Resolution No. 8646, July 14, 2009. - GMANews.TV
Politicians aspiring to become presidents can continue with their bread and circuses spree. Their infomercials are not yet covered by the elections law that prohibits premature campaigning, radio dzBB’s Teresa Tabares on Thursday quoted Supreme Court spokesman and assistant court administrator Jose Midas Marquez as saying.

Marquez reportedly said that politicians with infomercials could not yet be accused of violating Batas Pambansa 881 or the Omnibus Election Code because while they may have already expressed their intention to run for a national post, they have not yet filed their certificates of candidacy (COC), and thus are not yet poll candidates.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) issued Resolution No. 8646 last July shortening to 11 from 27 days the period for filing COC. The filing period will be from November 20 to 30, 2009.

In its recent ruling on the election case of Sta. Monica, Surigao del Norte Mayor Rosalinda Penera, the Supreme Court ruled that section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code remains in effect even with the implementation of Republic Act 9639 or the Poll Automation Law.

Section 80 of the Code prohibits “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."

The same section allows political parties to “hold political conventions or meetings to nominate their official candidates within thirty days before the commencement of the campaign period and forty-five days for Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections."

The high tribunal said in its ruling that campaigning is only allowed during the campaign period that starts 90 days before the election for national candidates and 45 days before the polls for local candidates.

It means that the official campaign period for next year’s national polls should only start on Feb. 9, 2010 and end on May 8 of the same year. Campaign period for local elections is from March 26, 2010 to May 8, 2010.

In Penera’s case, Supreme Court justices voting 8-7, disqualified the Surigao del Norte mayor from holding office after she was found guilty of engaging in premature election campaign when she held a motorcade after filing her COC in 2007 with the Comelec.

The high tribunal said the conduct of motorcade is an election campaign or partisan political activity defined under Section 79 of the Code. Other election campaign activities enumerated in the said section are:
  • Forming organizations, associations, clubs, committees or other groups of persons for the purpose of soliciting votes and/or undertaking any campaign for or against a candidate;

  • Holding political caucuses, conferences, meetings, rallies, parades, or other similar assemblies, for the purpose of soliciting votes and/or undertaking any campaign or propaganda for or against a candidate;

  • Making speeches, announcements or commentaries, or holding interviews for or against the election of any candidate for public office;

  • Publishing or distributing campaign literature or materials designed to support or oppose the election of any candidate; or

  • Directly or indirectly soliciting votes, pledges or support for or against a candidate.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago is assailing public officials with infomercials, claiming they were engaged in premature election campaign.

Santiago is urging Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to file cases against four Cabinet members, including Vice President Noli de Castro, for continuing to air their infomercials, which she said was a mask for premature campaigning.

In a “rush and personal" letter dated September 9, Santiago said if the cases would not filed in court this month, the concerned officials would have the “license" to continue their infomercials until the deadline for the filing certificates of candidacy by the end of November. - ARCS, GMANews.TV