Why Comelec has hands tied vs 'premature campaigning'

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 11 2016 10:30 AM

MANILA - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) admitted on Monday that there is no law which could penalize candidates in the 2016 elections for splurging on political ads even before the campaign period.

Speaking to radio dzMM, Comelec chairperson Atty. Andres Bautista explained that even after one files a certificate of candidacy (COC) in October, he or she is not considered a candidate until the official campaign period starts in February.

"Mula Oktubre hanggang Pebrero, kahit anong gawin niya, technically ay hindi pa siya kandidato. In which case, wala pong kapangyarihan ang kandidato," Bautista emphasized.

He said this technically renders moot the concept of premature campaigning.

"Ang problema po ng Comelec dito sa premature campaining e may butas ang batas. Ang amin pong mandato ay kami po ang dapat magpatupad ng ating mga batas tungkol sa eleksyon at halalan," the official said.

"Pero kung wala pong batas, wala po kaming batas. In fact, ang problema wala pong 'premature campaigning."

Senator Miriam Santiago on Sunday urged voters to treat as red flags for corruption the large advertising spending of her fellow presidential aspirants.

Santiago's office said her four rivals have already spent a total of P2.3 billion for television ads from January to December 2015.

Liberal Party bet Mar Roxas was reportedly the top spender, shelling out P774 million. He was followed by Vice President Jejomar Binay who spent P695 million; Senator Grace Poe, P694 million; and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, P129 million.

Miriam warns: Ad splurge, a red flag for corruption

The Comelec urged the next Congress to resolve the legal loophole which allows excessive spending before the start of poll campaigns.