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James Jimenez explains ‘absurd’ reason why Comelec can’t stop premature campaigning


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Eleksyon 2022 is just around the corner, and some activities spearheaded by politicians could perhaps be seen as premature campaigning, which is unlawfuland in the latest episode of The Howie Severino Podcast, Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez explained why the poll body can't do anything to stop it.

“From a gut point of view, absolutely premature campaigning 'yan. No question about it kasi alam mong ginagamit 'yun opportunity to present themselves in a good light, to perhaps promote name recall, et cetera,” he said.

[From a gut point of view, that is absolutely premature campaigning. There is no question about it because you know that they have used the opportunity to present themselves in a good light, to perhaps promote, name recall, et cetera.]

The Omnibus Election Code expressly forbids "election campaign or partisan political activity outside campaign period."

However, Jimenez said, “Another point of view exists. The second point of view is the legal point of view. Legally, premature campaigning does not exist. So whatever they're doing now will not be characterized as criminal premature campaigning, it will be characterized as freedom of expression.”

Jimenez said that the current law only prohibit candidates from doing certain activities including premature campaigning, once the official campaign period set by the Comelec has already started.

“Everything na puwede mong ipagbawal sa kandidato, including premature campaigning, puwede mo lang ipagbawal kapag nagsimula na 'yung campaign period [You can only prohibit candidates from certain activities, including premature campaigning, once the campaign period started.] So literally, the law says you cannot commit premature campaigning unless the campaign period started, which is absurd, right?” he said.

The poll body’s spokesperson lamented that even the Supreme Court cannot rule against premature campaigning and only Congress can address this by passing a law prohibiting it.

“Sabi ng Supreme Court ‘Sorry. The solution lies with Congress, not with this court.’ So ganu'n din ang sitwasyon namin ngayon [that's our situation now],” he said.

“We know that everything they're doing now is premature campaigning but legally there's not anything we can do about it, which leads of course to people saying, 'COMELEC is inutil. COMELEC is walang ngipin. [Comelec is useless. Comelec has no teeth.] COMELEC has its hands tied.' I mean, you know, it sounds negative and shit like that but it is true. In this particular instance, there really is nothing to do because wala sa batas, e [it's not in the law]. Malinaw na malinaw sa batas na allowed itong activity na ito (It is very clear in the law that these activities are allowed],” he added.

For the 2022 national and local elections, the Comelec scheduled the filing of Certificate of Candidacy from October 1 to 8, 2021.

The campaign period for politicians seeking national posts is set from February 8 to May 7, 2022.

Meanwhile, the campaign period for local elective posts’ candidates is set from March 25 to May 7, 2022. — BM, GMA News

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