SC ruling favors rich candidates --Comelec

By Lilita Balane, Newsbreak

Posted at Nov 26 2009 10:06 PM | Updated as of Nov 27 2009 06:06 AM

Poll body's monitoring shifts from premature campaigning to election spending

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday expressed disappointment with the Supreme Court ruling that decriminalizes premature campaigning, saying it would give unfair advantage to moneyed candidates.

"It favors those with deep war chest, those with resources. If you're less known, you'll be at the disadvantaged," Commissioner Rene Sarmiento told reporters.

Voting 9-5, the Supreme Court nullified the provision in the Omnibus Election Code penalizing premature campaigning. Section 80 of the election code says 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."

Before the SC ruling, the Comelec advised aspirants to refrain from airing infomercials after filing their certificates of candidacy (COCs), or they could be disqualified. The filing of candidacies ends on December 1, but the campaign period for the national posts will start on Feb. 9, 2010, yet.

With the tribunal's ruling, those who filed their COCs can publish, air, and conduct any promotional materials or activities even before the campaign period starts. The principle behind this is that those with COCs will only be considered as "candidates" when the campaign period starts, therefore all their activities before that will be considered "personal" in nature.

"It's fiesta time for candidates," Sarmiento said.

However, Sarmiento said the Comelec has another avenue by which they can go after heavy spenders during the pre-campaign period.

He said the Comelec will strictly impose Republic Act 9006 or the Fair Elections Act. Sarmiento said this law allows the commission to monitor candidates who are pouring money into their campaign beyond the limits set by law.

He mentioned that the poll body would look carefully into the candidate's campaign expenses and monitor the duration of their infomercials, among others.

Under this law, Sarmiento said, candidates who commit violations will face disqualification or imprisonment of up to 6 years. (Newsbreak)


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