Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia. File Photo

Comelec voids prohibition on premature campaigning

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) will put to test the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on the so-called “Peñera Doctrine” by voiding the prohibition on premature campaigning in the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE).

The said doctrine refers to the Peñera vs Comelec case. In 2010, the high court reversed its decision which disqualified Sta. Monica, Surigao del Norte Mayor Rosalinda Peñera as a candidate in the 2007 local elections for violation of Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code that prohibits premature campaigning.

With the reversal, the Supreme Court effectively nullified Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code, and rendered it not applicable on the 2010 automated elections and succeeding elections.

Section 80 states that “it shall be unlawful for any person, whether or not a voter or candidate…to engage in an election campaign or partisan political activity, except during the campaign period.”

Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia said on Friday that the Commission en banc arrived at the decision after they studied the case and concluded that the high tribunal ruling on the Peñera doctrine was only applicable to automated elections, not on the BSKE which is manually done.

“That is why the En Banc has agreed to the proposal since the barangay and SK elections are done manually,” he said, adding that as such it would be reflected in the Comelec guidelines and instructions in relation to the BSKE that “upon the filing of candidacy, a candidate, whether in SK or in barangay, will be deemed considered a candidate.”

The filing term of the certificates of candidacies (CoCs), according to Garcia, would depend on the Comelec decision, which is usually scheduled weeks or months apart from the start of the campaign period.

As for the BSKE, candidates are only allowed to campaign for 10 days, as stated in the law. Any electioneering prior to the permitted timetable is considered premature campaigning.

Election materials displayed ahead of the campaign period will be removed and cases are to be filed against those who would be caught committing the offense.

Garcia said that the poll body is ready to take the risk and is inclined to participate in a legal battle if anyone files a petition before the Supreme Court to question its decision.

For his part, Comelec spokesman Atty. John Rex Laudiangco explained that the Peñera vs Comelec was the case interpreting the provision of Section 15 or Republic Act 9369 or the “Election Automation Law,” which requires early filing of CoCs to give ample time for the printing of official ballots.

Five-year term for barangay, SK officials

Meanwhile, Cagayan de Oro Second District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez has proposed a bill that would extend the term of office of barangay (village) and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) or youth council officers from three to five years.

House Bill 7123 would amend Section 43 of the Local Government Code, which currently provides for a three-year tenure and a three-term maximum for barangay and SK officials.

The term limit is kept in the bill.

The proposed extended term in office would take effect in the first barangay and SK elections after the proposed amendatory law is passed.

Rodriguez suggested a longer term since the three-year term “is too short for unity and stability in barangay leadership and activities.”

Rodriguez, who leads the House committee on constitutional revisions, argued that fewer elections would reduce public discontent.

“It is common knowledge that elections, whether national, local, or barangay, prove to be divisive. Candidates and their supporters try to destroy their opponents by using any means necessary just to be able to secure victory,” he said.

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