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Comelec chair says law needed on premature campaigning, spending limits


Commission on Elections chair Andres Bautista on Tuesday said a law must be passed to regulate campaigning, including concerns over premature campaigning and spending.
 
At a press briefing on Tuesday, Bautista said, "On the issue of premature campaigning, sa aming palagay, dapat ring magkaroon ng batas para ma-regulate nang tama."
 
"Dahil sabi nga natin, ayon ngayon sa ating batas—at sinegundahan ng Supreme Court—there is no such offense as premature campaigning because it can only happen during the campaign period. So by and large, from now until February 8, 2016, Comelec is powerless to regulate campaign expenditures," he added. 
 
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, the Comelec has said it is not a legal issue, given that there are no sanctions in place for political ads released before the official campaign season
 
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.
 
Spending cap
 
Meanwhile, Bautista said they also raised concerns over campaign expenditures with Congress, where bills have been filed to raise the amount candidates are allowed to spend on voters.
 
"Sinabi natin na kung titingnan mo 'yung Republic Act No. 7166 (Synchronized Elections Law) -- it was passed in 1991 -- napakababa nu'ng pinapayagang gastos ng kandidato per registered voter. Ito ay aming ihinarap sa ating Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reform at sinasabi namin na sa aming palagay, panahon na para amyendahan 'yung batas," he said.
 
Under Section 13 of RA No. 7166, every candidate for president and vice president may spend P10 for each voter. 
 
Senatorial candidates and party-list representatives may allot P3 per voter. Independent candidates and political parties are allowed P5.
 
A candidate running at the local level, meanwhile, may spend P3 for every voter currently registered in the constituency where he filed his Certificate of Candidacy.
 
In July, Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro filed House Bill 5928, which seeks to raise the spending cap for candidates, in amounts ranging from P30 to P50.
 
Over at the Senate, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III has also filed a bill to raise allowable expenditure by up to P20 for top positions.  — ELR, GMA News