Election lawyer formally asks Comelec to suspend and amend Oplan Baklas policy

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 22 2022 05:19 PM

Romulo Macalintal  VP Leni Media Bureau
Veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal. VP Leni Media Bureau, handout

MANILA — A veteran election lawyer asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Tuesday to suspend its rules regulating the display of campaign posters by private citizens "pending review."

In a letter addressed to the poll body, Romulo Macalintal formally urged the Comelec to temporarily halt the implementation of certain provisions of its Resolution 10730, particularly the basis for the controversial Oplan Baklas.

"The requested temporary suspension will give the Comelec ample time to review its regulations and the same be fully clarified in order to insure a uniform standard and policy for the campaign activities of national and local candidates when the campaign period for the latter starts on March 25, 2022," Macalintal said.

Macalintal, , who currently works for the camp of presidential candidate Leni Robredo, told ABS-CBN News he filed his letter in his personal capacity as an election lawyer and not as part of Robredo's campaign team.

Under the resolution, the Comelec "may, motu proprio, immediately order the removal, destruction and/or confiscation of any prohibited propaganda material, or those materials which contain statements or representations that are illegal."

Macalintal said the provision is being used "arbitrarily" by election officials. 

"Such action is so arbitrary and a clear violation of one’s constitutional right to his property and due process. While Comelec may have such 'motu proprio' authority, the same cannot be exercised without giving the party the chance to be heard. (Timbol vs Comelec, GR 206004, February 24, 2015)," he said.

"Thus, the need for the Comelec to amend this rule by making it clear that campaign materials inside a private property and owned by a non- candidate cannot be removed without notice and hearing," he added.

"Clearly, the provisions on posting of election campaign materials provided under Resolution No. 10730, implementing Section 9 of RA 9006, do not apply to private persons or non-candidates."

Macalintal's request came in light of Robredo camp's threat to sue Comelec after they felt targeted by Oplan Baklas operatives. 

Watchdog Legal Network For Truthful Elections (Lente) maintained that Comelec cannot regulate posters that contain advocacies as these are legitimate exercises of freedom of expression.

"Kapag advocacy 'yung election paraphernalia, 'yan ay hindi puwedeng i-control o i-regulate ni Comelec. That’s our exercise of freedom of expression," said Lente executive director Ona Caritos.

The Comelec earlier said that complaints against Oplan Baklas have been tackled by the en banc, adding they are open to "review" the directive.


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