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MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) cannot dismantle posters installed on private property, the Supreme Court said, resolving a major 2022 election issue that once angered supporters of former vice president and defeated presidential candidate Leni Robredo.
The High Court ruled in favor of St. Anthony College and other private individuals who installed posters in support of Robredo inside private property.
“The Court held that ‘the Comelec’s implementation of ‘Oplan Baklas’ as against St. Anthony et al. is unconstitutional as it exceeded the bounds of permissible regulation under Republic Act No. 9006 and Comelec Resolution No. 10730,” a press release from the Supreme Court Public Information Office read.
RA 9006 is the Fair Election Act, which details what counts as lawful election propaganda.
For the 2022 elections, the poll body released Comelec Resolution No. 10730, the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 9006 in connection with that year’s vote.
Under that resolution, the Comelec said individual posters even on private property “must comply with the allowable size (2 feet by 3 feet) requirements for posters,” and that “any violation shall be punishable as an election offense.”
“The Court held that RA 9006 only permits the COMELEC to regulate the election propaganda owned by candidates and political parties. It does not allow the COMELEC to regulate the political speech of private persons on private property,” the Supreme Court said.
“While COMELEC may validly implement ‘Oplan Baklas’ against candidates and political parties, it cannot implement ‘Oplan Baklas’ against private individuals expressing their political preferences or support for a candidate or political party,” it added.
The poll body’s poster dismantling operations in 2022 did not sit well with supporters of Robredo, whose campaign materials were among the first poster takedowns reported when the Comelec began conducting ‘Oplan Baklas’ in mid-February.
Supreme Court petitioners 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.
In March, the Comelec suspended ‘Oplan Baklas’ on private property after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against the poll body. – Rappler.com