Comelec backs Gordon bill vs premature campaigning

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday, August 16, voiced support for a bill filed by Senator Richard Gordon against premature campaigning.

"We are very supportive of this particular bill," Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said in a Senate hearing on Thursday. "In general the Comelec supports any move to curtail premature campaigning."

Gordon's Senate Bill 100 amends Republic Act (RA) 9369 or the Automated Election System Law.  

The amendment states that a person will already be considered a candidate the moment he or she files a certificate of candidacy or COC. The current law states that a person is considered a candidate only at the start of the campaign period. 

This means a candidate who campaigns after filing his or her COC, but before the official campaign period, can be liable for premature campaigning. 

While premature campaigning is an election offense, a 2009 Supreme Court ruling stated, citing RA 9369, that "a candidate is liable for election offenses only upon the start of the campaign period." The 2009 SC ruling made it impossible under the law to commit premature campaigning. 

"Senate Bill 100 simply corrects the problem in the existing RA 9369 where there is a specific clause that says basically that the filing of the certificate of candidacy is essentially only for the purpose of getting on the ballot, and that all of the acts will not be attributed until the start of the campaign period," Jimenez explained.

Detained Senator Leila de Lima, a veteran election lawyer, also filed a bill against premature campaigning in July this year. De Lima's bill states that "prospective candidates" can be "held liable for premature campaigning within one year before the start of the campaign period."

In De Lima's Senate Bill 1893, a "prospective candidate" is "any person aspiring for or seeking an elective public office, whether or not he/she has explicitly declared his/her intention to run as a candidate in the immediately preceding elections, who eventually files a certificate of candidacy." 

Months before the 2019 elections, the likes of Special Assistant to the President Bong Go and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque have been positioned as senatorial hopefuls, but they cannot be charged with premature campaigning because of a loophole in the law. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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