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SC asked to reverse ruling allowing early campaigning

The Supreme Court has been urged to reverse a recent ruling that in effect has allowed candidates to start courting support before the start of the official campaign period.

Edgar Andanar, a mayoral candidate who lost in the 2007 elections, has asked the high court to reinstate its Sept. 11, 2009, decision disqualifying his rival, Mayor Rosalinda Penera of Sta. Monica, Surigao del Norte, for premature campaigning under Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code.

The high tribunal had originally ruled that the ban against premature campaigning remained in effect despite the enactment of Republic Act No. 9369 or the poll automation law.

Not a candidate yet

The Supreme Court, however, reversed itself on Nov. 25, 2009, upon Penera’s appeal and ordered her reinstated as mayor of Sta. Monica.

The court agreed with Penera that she could not be considered a candidate yet when she held a motorcade right after filing her certificate of candidacy.

Penera had cited Section 15 of Republic Act No. 8463, as amended by RA 9369, which states that “any person who files his certificate of candidacy … shall be considered a candidate within the start of the campaign period … ”

The provision further states that “unlawful acts or omissions applicable to a candidate shall take effect only upon the start of the campaign period.”

Leveling the playing field

In effect, the Supreme Court said, “There is no premature campaign to speak of since Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code has effectively been repealed with the implementation of Section 15 of RA 9369.”

But Andanar, in his petition, maintained that the poll automation law did not decriminalize premature campaigning. The law focuses on the filing of certificates of candidacy and the manner of voting and counting, he said.

“The prohibition on premature election campaigning aims to level the playing field for candidates to public office, to equalize the situation between popular or rich candidates on the one hand and less known or poorer candidates on the other,” he said.

‘Direful consequences’

Andanar reiterated that Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code is primarily aimed at preventing the credibility of elections from being compromised.

He cited Supreme Court Associate Justice Roberto Abad’s dissenting opinion: “Premature campaigning necessarily entails huge expenditures of funds on the part of the candidates, precipitates violence and even deaths, results in the corruption of the electorate, and inflicts direful consequences upon the public interest as the vital affairs of the country are sacrificed for purely partisan pursuits.” (Dona Pazzibugan, inquirer.net)

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