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MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) suspended the removal of campaign posters on private property in the wake of a halt order issued by the Supreme Court against “Oplan Baklas.”
The poll body’s law department has confirmed it received a copy of the temporary restraining order (TRO) from the High Court on Wednesday, March 9.
“During the discussion in the en banc earlier, it was agreed that of course, the Comelec will honor the TRO issued by the Supreme Court,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez told reporters.
“We will continue with our ‘baklas’ operations in public spaces, as it is required by law. As far as ‘baklas’ in private places, that is held in abeyance, in deference to the court,” he added.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked the poll body from implementing provisions of its Comelec Resolution No. 10730, which gives the Comelec the power to dismantle oversized election materials that are privately owned and funded, and installed on private premises.
It was supporters of Vice President Leni Robredo who questioned the constitutionality of “Oplan Baklas” in the High Court, arguing that tarp removals on private property is against freedom of speech.
Robredo’s camp had also reported instances of authorities supposedly removing supporters’ campaign posters on private property without consent.
What’s the context here?
Republic Act No. 9006 or the Fair Election Act details what counts as lawful election propaganda. This includes posters that do not exceed the maximum size of 2 feet by 3 feet, unless it is posted at the site of a rally, where its size can be up to 3 feet by 8 feet.
The law also says lawful election propaganda – adhering to size requirements – may be installed on private premises, as long as there is the owner’s consent.
For the 2022 elections, the implementing rules and regulations of the Fair Elections Act are contained in Comelec Resolution No. 10730.
Petitioners argued that the poll body’s resolution should only apply to candidates and not private individuals.
They also cited a 2015 ruling on Diocese of Bacolod vs. Comelec, which for them meant the Comelec can no longer go after oversized posters on private property.
The Comelec, in its appreciation of the case, has said that the High Court decision in 2015 only allows oversized posters if it pushes for an advocacy of a social cause. – Rappler.com