MANILA - Paraphernalia urging the President's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, to run in the 2022 polls do not violate election laws, the Commission on Elections said Wednesday.
"Technically, there is no violation because in order for premature campaigning to be committed there should be an official candidate," Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told ANC.
"And no official candidate exists right now. In fact, we are not even filing the certificate of candidacy yet. So, since there is no official candidate, there can be no crime or should we say offense of premature campaigning."
Jimenez said the "Run Sara Run" banners, which have been slammed by several social media users as early campaigning, was "a matter of free expression."
"These people have the right to actually promote the candidacy of anyone that they want. They could put up a banner that says 'Christian Run' and it won't make a difference because it's a matter of free expression," he said.
However, the poll official noted such activity skews the playing field.
"You are putting a premium on the ability to go out and campaign this early, which means you have a bigger war chest, which means you have more money, which means that ultimately candidates with more resources are in a better position to win the election," he said.
"So, I think people should reject candidates who are campaigning this early or who are tolerating other people campaigning in their name even if they haven’t yet filed their certificate of candidacy."
Jimenez has previously lamented that the country's poll automation law has created a huge loophole that blurred the definition of premature campaigning.
Under Section 13 of Republic Act 9369, a person is only considered an official candidate at the start of the campaign period: "Any person who files his certificate of candidacy within this period shall only be considered as a candidate at the start of the campaign period for which he filed his certificate of candidacy."
President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday his daughter was not running for the country's highest post in 2022.
"Inday Sara is not running. I have really, really put my foot down. Naaawa ako sa anak ko. Ang politiko dito, kababuyan," he said in a briefing in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur.
(... I pity my daughter. The politics here is dirty.)
Last month, the Davao City mayor also appealed to her supporters to wait for her to run for president until 2034.
"I understand where they are coming from. I too am anxious where we are going as a nation. I am always grateful that I have their trust and confidence,” she had told ABS-CBN News.
“I am pleading to them to please allow me to run for President [in] 2034, if at that time there is something I can do to help the country. Thank you.”