By Camille A. Aguinaldo
THE SENATE committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation, chaired by Senator Aquilino L. Pimentel III, has recommended the “criminalization” of premature campaigning of candidates.
The committee report of Senate Bill No. 2064, filed on Oct. 18, seeks to restore the provision in the Omnibus Election Code, which stipulated premature campaigning as an election offense.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has previously pointed out that under the present system with Republic Act (RA) No. 9369 or the Automated Elections System law, early campaign activities are not considered illegal. The Supreme Court has also ruled on the legality of premature campaigning.
Based on the law, a person seeking an elective position is considered a candidate only during the campaign period. As such, aspirants are technically allowed to engage in “premature campaigning.”
The proposed bill, meanwhile, redefines the term candidate.
“A person shall be considered a candidate the moment he files his certificate of Candidacy (COC) within the period provided by the Commission on Elections,” the report said.
Any form of partisan political activity by a candidate after his filing of COC or way before the start of the official campaign period will be considered “premature campaigning” and therefore unlawful.
The bill provides a punishment of imprisonment from one to six years, disqualification from holding public office, and deprivation of the right to suffrage under Section 80 and 264 of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines.
“The barrage of political advertisement on TV and radio and the obvious electioneering or campaigning by many candidates way before the start of the official campaign in the last elections were too much to be ignored,” Senator Richard J. Gordon, one of the authors of the bill, said in a statement.
Mr. Pimentel will sponsor the approval of the bill when Congress resumes session in November.
The committee report was signed by Senators Pimentel, Francis N. Pangilinan, Gordon, Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares, Loren B. Legarda, Emmanuel D. Pacquiao, Francis G. Escudero, Nancy S. Binay-Angeles, Sherwin T. Gatchalian, Risa N. Hontiveros, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, and Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon.