Comelec, authorities start Oplan Baklas, remove campaign posters not following guidelines
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and other authorities on Wednesday started taking down election campaign posters that are either oversized or posted in restricted areas.
In a livestream aired on Comelec’s official Facebook page, it can be seen that the huge tarpaulin promoting the candidacies of Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Francis Pangilinan in Cubao, Quezon City was subjected to the poll body’s “Oplan Baklas.”
Apart from this, the video also showed that the Comelec dismantled a huge tarpaulin promoting the election bids of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
In a press conference, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said they are just “making steps” to ensure that “our laws are complied with.”
Under Section 6 of Comelec Resolution 10730, lawful election propaganda include:
Pamphlets, leaflets, cards, decals, stickers or other written or printed materials the size of which does not exceed eight and one-half inches in width and fourteen inches in length;
- Handwritten or printed letters urging voters to vote for or against any particular political party or candidate for public office;
- Cloth, paper or cardboard posters, whether framed or posted, with an area not exceeding two feet by three feet, except that, at the site and on the occasion of a public meeting or rally, or in announcing the holding of said meeting or rally, streamers not exceeding three feet by eight feet in size, shall be allowed.
These streamers may be displayed five days before the date of the meeting or rally and shall be removed within 24 hours after said meeting or rally.
In a Viber message to GMA News Online, Atty. Vic Rodriguez, Marcos’ spokesperson, said there are supporters who paid for some campaign materials like billboards, to throw support to the former lawmaker’s candidacy.
“We have many supporters who on their own initiative, have put up Bongbong Marcos-Sara Duterte UniTeam billboards and for which we are extremely grateful,” he said.
He then urged the Comelec to “strike a balance” between its mandate to regulate these campaign materials and one’s freedom of expression especially if these were posted within private property.
“While the Comelec has a mandate to carry out, in doing so we urge them to strike a balance with an individual’s right to freedom of expression especially if it is in his or her private property or ownership,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a Balitanghali report, several campaign posters in EDSA-Pasay that were also not following the set guidelines were removed by the Comelec and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
According to the Comelec-National Capital Region (NCR), there were several candidates who abided when given notice to remove their campaign posters, but others have not done so yet.
In a separate report by Ian Cruz, posters placed in non-common poster areas in Maceda St. in Sampaloc, Manila were also removed by authorities. Those that follow the right poster sizes were also taken down if they were placed on electric posts and trees.
Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, for his part, said Comelec has no authority to remove oversized campaign posters as long as it is posted in private property and it has the permission of the private property's owner/s.
"Mali at labag sa Saligang Batas na basta na lamang binabaklas ng Comelec ang mga campaign materials na ito na hindi binibigyan ng pagkakataon na marinig muna ang panig ng mga nagpost ng nasabing campaign posters," said Macalintal, who was one of Robredo's lawyers when she won against the poll protest of Marcos in 2016.
(Comelec's removal of the campaign posters without informing whoever posted it of the reason behind the removal violates the Constitution and the person's right to due process.)
Macalintal cited the Supreme Court ruling in the Timbol vs. Comelec case, which he said requires due process or allowing the person involved in putting up the poster to explain his or her side of things before Comelec can take action against such posters.
"Maging ang pagtakda ng sukat ng campaign materials na pinapaskel ng non-candidates sa pribadong lugar ay hindi rin maaaring pakialaman ng Comelec. Ito ay sa dahilang ang mga batas sa halalan tungkol sa campaign materials ay para lamang sa mga kandidato at hindi sakop ang mga hindi kandidato," he said.
(Even the size of campaign materials that private citizens post in their properties is outside the jurisdiction of the Comelec because election rules on campaign materials only apply to candidates.)
According to Atty. Gregorio Bonifacio, head of the Manila Task Force Baklas Operation, the confiscated posters were brought to the MMDA’s Nagtahan Base.
He said that these may be used against the candidates or party-lists that violated Comelec Resolution 10730 which states the rules and regulations of the Fair Elections Act, in connection with the May 9 polls.
READ: The do's and don'ts during campaign season amid the pandemic
The campaign period for Eleksyon 2022 candidates running for president, vice president, senator, and party-lists started on February 8. The elections will be held on May 9. —with Llanesca T. Panti/KG/KBK, GMA News