A poll official on Sunday said the Comelec cannot stop candidates running for local posts from engaging in premature campaigning because there are no regulations against it.
Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said, “This means that they [candidates] can still put up propaganda materials without ... legal consequences.”
He said this amid reports reaching the Comelec office from its social media "#SumbongKo" campaign saying some local candidates are already promoting their propaganda materials.
But, voters can put the names of those engaged in "premature campaigning" on the list of those they are not going to vote come election day, Jimenez said.
The campaign period of those running for seats in the House of Representatives, and elective regional, provincial, city, and municipal officials will start on March 25.
Republic Act No. 9369 provides that one who filed a certificate of candidacy can only be considered a candidate at the start of the campaign period.
For national posts – president, vice-president, senators, and party-list groups – the campaign period began last Feb. 9.
Earlier, Comelec chairman Andres Bautista said a law is needed so that the poll body can regulate premature campaigning activities.
"Dahil sabi nga natin, ayon sa ating batas ngayon — na sinegundahan ng Supreme Court—there is no such offense as premature campaigning."
Article X, Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code says, "It shall be unlawful for any person, whether a voter or candidate, or any party, or association of persons to engage in an election campaign or partisan political activity except during the campaign period."
But Bautista said 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." — LBG, GMA News