Premature campaigning may be disgusting but it is not an election offense, Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman James Jimenez said on Friday.
According to Jimenez, social media accounts, posters, and text blasts propagated before the start of the official campaign period may be deemed "illegal" for other reasons but not for being election offenses.
"Hindi 'yan pwedeng tawagin election offense na premature campaigning simply because premature campaigning is almost no longer possible. 'Yun ang problema natin diyan," Jimenez said, seeing the matter as a "loophole" in the law.
"Until the start of the campaign period, hindi po yan illegal. Kadiri siya pero hindi siya illegal," he added.
He cited the ruling of the Supreme Court in the case of Rosalinda Penera against the Comelec and Edgar Andanar, where the tribunal decided that under the Omnibus Election Code, "premature campaigning" can only be deemed so only at the start of the campaign period, when a person who filed a certificate of candidacy is officially considered a candidate.
"Only after said person officially becomes a candidate, at the start of the campaign period, can his/her disqualification be sought for acts constituting premature campaigning," the Court said in 2009.
"Obviously, it is only at the start of the campaign period, when the person officially becomes a candidate, that the undue and iniquitous advantages of his/her prior acts, constituting premature campaigning, shall accrue to his/her benefit," it added.
However, the Court expressed its stance against premature campaigning.
"We cannot stress strongly enough that premature campaigning is a pernicious act that is continuously threatening to undermine the conduct of fair and credible elections in our country, no matter how great or small the acts constituting the same are," the Court said.
The 2018 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls will be held on May 14. It was first scheduled for October 2016 but moved up to October 2017, and then to May 2018. —NB, GMA News