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Up to public to penalize politicians with ‘premature’ ads – Comelec commissioner

With no sanctions in place for political ads released before the official campaign season, a Commission on Elections official said it is up to voters to judge the potential candidates in the 2016 elections. 
"It is not a legal issue, definitely," Comelec Commissioner Luie Tito Guia said in an interview on Thursday.
"Ipasa natin sa taumbayan. Paano ba tinitingnan ng taumbayan 'yung ganoon? Is it something that is welcome, is it in good taste?"
He added that "looking at it from the other point of view," people have a right to advertise themselves if they can afford the airtime.
"Where the money comes from, that's another question, but that aside, who's preventing them from advertising themselves? Karapatan 'yon, freedom of speech," Guia said. 
He said, though, that voters should also consider the following questions: "Is it something in good taste? Is it something that an ethical politician should be doing?"
Politicians can only be considered candidates when they file their certificates of candidacy in October.
Ads on TV, radio, and social media, however, have featured some prospective candidates for the 2016 national elections, some of them advancing a certain advocacy. 
Guia pointed out, "Unfortunately by February or March (pa puwedeng ma-consider as premature campaigning.)"
Other Comelec officials have previously admitted that they are "powerless" against this. 
Dr. J. Prospero “Popoy” De Vera, a political analyst and vice president for public affairs of the University of the Philippines, meanwhile, said the political ads fall within a "gray area" in election laws
If anything, De Vera pointed out, now is a good time for those aspiring to run for office in 2016 to start introducing themselves to the public, a precursor to a potential campaign.
Article X, 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."
However, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez has said that election laws already ruled out premature campaigning as an offense, partly because the Supreme Court has ruled that one's candidacy becomes official only within the campaign period.
In a 2006 decision on the Lanot vs. Comelec case, the SC said political promotion outside the campaign period forms part of the aspirants' "freedom of expression." 
The high court upheld this in a decision in 2009, where it said elective aspirants can promote themselves before the campaign period since they are not yet considered candidates at the time. — JDS, GMA News