Bill filed vs premature campaigning

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Monday, May 19, 2014

A LAGUNA representative on Monday filed a bill that would keep politicians from engaging in premature campaigning months before an official election campaign period.

House Bill 4105 filed by Laguna Representative Joaquin Chipeco Jr., seeks to prohibit electoral campaigns or partisan political activities, except during the campaign periods set by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Chipeco noted that under the present election law, there has been no restriction against early campaigning.

The Laguna lawmaker said that the court has already decriminalized premature campaigning in Penera vs Comelec in 2009.

He added that under the current rule, two facts must concur in order to for a person or aspiring candidate to be liable to an election offense: first, he/she must have filed his/her certificate of candidacy; and second, the campaign period has commenced.

"This means that a candidate in our (automated) elections could campaign much earlier than the start of the campaign period and not incur any criminal liability for premature campaigning under our election laws," Chipeco said.

The lawmaker cited that the legal conundrum arising from such a jurisprudential rule is patently manifest and it effectively decriminalizes not just premature campaigning, but any and all election offenses committed prior to the campaign.

"Whether the majority of the Court realizes this grave implication from its ruling, it merely washes its hands by conveniently stating that the forum for examining the wisdom of the law, and enacting remedial measures, is not this Court but the Legislature," he added.

Section 1 of the bill states, "It shall be unlawful for any person, whether or not a voter or candidate, or for any party, or association of persons, to engage in an election campaign or partisan political activity except during the campaign period: Provided, that the person or aspiring candidate in whose favour the premature campaigning was done eventually files his/her certificate of candidacy; and provided further, that the prohibition against premature campaigning shall apply in all kinds of election, whether done manually, automated, or otherwise."

Under the bill, any person guilty of an election offense shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years and shall not be subject to probation.

A penalty of disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage awaits violators, the bill states.

"Any political party found guilty shall be sentenced to pay a fine of not less than P100,000 (previously P10,000), which shall be imposed upon such party after criminal action has been instituted in which their corresponding officials have been found guilty," the bill added. (Sunnex)

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