SC orders Comelec to suspend controversial 'Oplan Baklas'

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 08 2022 05:15 PM | Updated as of Mar 09 2022 03:05 PM

Members of the Metro Manila Development Authority collect dismantled campaign posters and tarpaulins at the MMDA satellite office in Sta. Mesa Manila during the ongoing 'Oplan Baklas' on Friday, February 18, 2022. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) came under fire Wednesday after several videos of its enforcers dismantling campaign materials in private properties went viral on social media, with some describing the incidents as
Members of the Metro Manila Development Authority collect dismantled campaign posters and tarpaulins at the MMDA satellite office in Sta. Mesa Manila during the ongoing 'Oplan Baklas' on Friday, February 18, 2022. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) came under fire Wednesday after several videos of its enforcers dismantling campaign materials in private properties went viral on social media, with some describing the incidents as "trespassing" and suppression of free speech. ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATED) — The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from implementing its "Oplan Baklas" program, which dismantles tarpaulins and other campaign materials even those inside private properties posted by private citizens.

In a press briefer issued by the Supreme Court Public Information Office Tuesday, SC magistrates decided to issue the TRO during its en banc deliberation Tuesday morning.

The TRO is directed at the poll body and its director and spokesperson James Jimenez, who were named respondents to the petition.

They are given a non-extendible period of 10 days from receipt of notice to comment on the petition.

The petition was filed by the St. Anthony College of Roxas City, Inc. and two self-proclaimed Robredo supporters — Dr. Pilita De Jesus Liceralde, one of the convenors of Isabela for Leni, and Dr. Anton Mari Hao Lim, one of the convenors of Zamboanguenos for Leni, who said they owned tarpaulins, posters and other campaign materials taken down by Comelec personnel because of Oplan Baklas.

Isabela for Leni and Zamboanguenos for Leni are informal organizations of volunteer private citizens, according to the petition.

The petition asked the high court to declare void three provisions under Comelec Resolution 10730, which are:

• Section 21 of Comelec Resolution 10730 limits the size of the posters to 2 feet by 3 feet;

• Section 24 allows only 1 signboard for the headquarters which should be no more than 3 feet by 8 feet in size; and

• Section 26 authorizes Comelec to immediately remove, destroy or confiscate the prohibited propaganda material.

Petitioners claim the Fair Elections Act and the Comelec resolution implementing it do not apply to private citizens.

They also claim Oplan Baklas violates their freedom of speech and expression and takes away their property without due process as there was no prior notice and hearing when the posters were taken without their consent.

In response to the Supreme Court’s TRO, Romulo Macalintal, lawyer for Vice President and presidential candidate Leni Robredo said in a statement he never had any doubt that the Supreme Court would stop the Comelec from implementing its resolution.

“This is indeed a welcome great development and victory of those candidates who do not have enough funds to sustain a nationwide campaign and who only depend upon the help and support of their volunteers,” he said.

“In this election 2022 where, for the first time, people from all walks of life are the ones spending for their candidates, the SC TRO will certainly give poor candidates a strong fighting chance to level the playing field in the political arena since it is now the private citizens who would do their own share in ensuring that we elect only honest and competent leaders with utmost integrity,” he added.

“I salute the SC for coming up with such a much needed injunction at this most opportune time to safeguard people's right of suffrage.”

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