MANILA - Premature campaigning is usually frowned upon by Filipinos, but the Commission on Elections said many politicians are able to skirt around the law.
According to Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez, 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."
Prior to the passing of the automation law, any form of campaigning done before official start of the campaign period is considered premature campaigning, since a person is considered an official candidate once he or she files a certificate of candidacy.
"But under the new law, you only become a candidate when the campaign period starts...Kahit nagcampaign ka nang maaga, hindi ka na puwedeng sitahin (Even if you campaign early, you wouldn't be penalized)," Jimenez said during a Facebook livestream.
"Ang problema kasi, ginawa ng batas. Sinabi ng batas na kahit mag-file ka ng CoC, hindi ka ituturing na candidate hanggang hindi pa nagsisimula ang campaign period," he added.
(The law made the problem. The law said that even if you file a CoC, you are not yet considered a candidate until the campaign period starts.)
For Jimenez, the only solution is another law that will declare a person an official candidate as soon as he or she files a certificate of candidacy.
"Ang solusyon sa malaking malaking loophole na na-create ng Automation Law is to make it very clear that if a person has filed a Certificate of Candidacy, right then and there, considered na siya na official candidate. 'Pag considered na siya na official candidate, lahat ng ipinagbabawal sa kandidato, puwede nang ipagbawal sa taong 'yun. Ibig sabihin, puwede na siyang kasuhan ng premature campaigning," he said.
(The solution to this very big loophole that the Automation Law created is to make it very clear that if a person has filed a Certificate of Candidacy, that person is considered an official candidate right then and there. Once you are considered a candidate, everything that is prohibited for a candidate applies to that person. This means that person can be penalized for premature campaigning.)
"'Yan ang tinatawag nating loophole ng premature campaigning. Napakalaking loophole. Sobrang laking loophole, na puwede kang magdaan ng kabayo sa loob ng loophole na 'yun," Jimenez added.
(That is what we call the premature campaigning loophole. That is a huge loophole. It's so big a horse can pass through that loophole.)
Back in 2019, Jimenez advised voters not to vote for politicians who are campaigning way ahead of the campaign period.
Comelec usually accept certificates of candidacy around October, while the official campaign period starts around February for national candidates, and around March for local candidates.