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Comelec's ‘Oplan Baklas’ unconstitutional, undemocratic —groups

Several organizations called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to stop taking down and confiscating election campaign posters in private properties,  saying it is "undemocratic" and "unconstitutional."

"We implore the honorable Commission on Elections to order its election officers and employees to cease and desist from illegally removing and confiscating campaign materials and paraphernalia owned, posted, and installed by private citizens and volunteers in their private property, such as those installed in volunteers' headquarters," the groups said in a statement.

The call came from the Women Lawyers for Leni, Lawyers Against Disinformation, Filipino American Human Rights Alliance, Sandigan ng Mag-aaral para sa Sambayanan and Now You Vote.

"This action not only crushes the spirit of volunteers who painstakingly, over the last months, have organized and devoted time and resources to express their support for their candidates but also goes against fundamental Constitutional rights of the people to property, expression, and information," they said.

The groups said private property cannot be regulated by Comelec in the absence of a law allowing it to do so.

They said the only requirement for posting campaign materials on private properties is the property owner's consent.

They cited a January 2015 ruling on the Diocese of Bacolod vs. Comelec and the March 1992 decision on Adiong vs. Comelec, which ruled on tarpaulins being removed on private properties.

"Clearly, posters and tarpaulins posted on private properties and volunteer headquarters, no matter their size, are outside the regulatory powers of the Comelec in the absence of a law granting Comelec such authority," they said.

"Citizens' right to participate in the electoral process, which include promoting candidates using their resources within their property dominion, cannot be restricted by Comelec absent any specific legislation therefore," they added.

Further, the groups denounced state forces trespassing and intruding into private properties nationwide.

"The due process clause enshrined in the Constitution is at the heart of our democratic and free society.  To this effect, we urge the honorable commission to stop this undemocratic and unconstitutional act," they said.

Comelec and other authorities earlier 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.”—LDF, GMA News