Press Release
September 8, 2012


(Speech at the symposium sponsored by the Graduate School Student Council
of the EARIST State College, Manila, on 8 September 2012.)

In the past, under the law, it was an election offense for a candidate to engage in premature campaigning, meaning to say, electioneering conducted before the official campaign period. However, in the highly controversial 2009 case of Penera v. Comelec, the Supreme Court, by a split vote of 8-7, ruled in effect that the offense of premature campaigning has already been repealed by the new Poll Automation Law.

Based on that notorious case, some senatoriables have already started taking out campaign advertising in the traditional media, meaning TV, radio, and print. These early campaigners are not violating the law, but it appears that they are violating the sensibilities of Filipino voters, and creating a backlash of condemnation.

The ordinary voter is beginning to raise questions. The first question is why these early campaigners are so rich that they can afford to take out expensive media advertisements ahead of all other candidates. It is scandalously expensive to pay for media advertising.

The 2012 TV rates at prime time, meaning 6:00-11:00 p.m., can cost as much as P340,000 for 30 seconds. The radio rates in Metro Manila for AM stations can cost as much as over P26,000 for 30 seconds. And the present rates for a full page for the Sunday issue can cost as much as nearly P350,000 in full color, and some P194,000 for black and white.

These are the rates for a single advertisement alone. Imagine how much the total cost is if the candidate takes out several advertisements a day. For example, if a candidate takes out just three TV advertisements in one day, the candidate would be spending about P1 million a day. This is shocking, in a society where politicians love to recite how high the poverty level is, and how their hearts are bleeding for the Filipino poor.

The first question is why these candidates have so much money to spend on premature media advertising. The second question is how they are going to recover their humongous campaign expenses. Unless the candidate is a billionaire, he can recover his money invested in infomercials, only by stealing from public funds, if he is elected. If the candidate is the head of a government agency and his campaign advertisement takes the form of an infomercial for the agency, the related question is whether it is the government agency, using public funds, which is paying for the premature campaign.

In 2009, I filed a resolution directing the Senate Committee on Public Accountability to investigate the source of funding of alleged TV infomercials featuring cabinet members and other public officials to determine their criminal liability for premature campaigning. Subsequently, I delivered a privilege speech entitled "Palace should stop illegal cabinet infomercials." I specified by name about 10 persons heading government agencies that were listed by the Commission on Audit as having used public funds of some P118 million to pay for their premature campaigns. I sent a copy of my privilege speech to the Ombudsman, the Comelec, and the Secretary of Justice. Nothing happened. Today, I continue my campaign against premature electioneering.

Why a premature campaign is no longer a crime is the result of a legal technicality, the effect of which is to give law a bad name.

This is how the law became a monster. The Election Code, Section 80, provides "that it is unlawful for any person . . . to engage in an election campaign or partisan political activity, except during the campaign period." In other words, a person could campaign, only during the official campaign period. For example, for elections that will be held on 13 May 2013, the Comelec has issued a resolution that sets the campaign period as beginning on 12 February 2013. Logically, no candidate should campaign before February 12 next year.

However, the same Election Code, in Section 79 (a) defines a candidate as any person who has filed a certificate of candidacy. Therefore, if you have not yet filed a certificate of candidacy, then you are not yet a candidate. For example, for next year's elections, the deadline for submission of certificates of candidacy is this October 5. However, the campaign period will begin only on February 12 next year. Since it is not yet campaign period, the senatoriables appearing in media advertisements are not yet considered as candidates and hence, they can already start to campaign! This is preposterous, ridiculous, and ludicrous!

The result of this tortured legislative language and the split Supreme Court ruling is absurd. Any candidate can now advertise himself at any time, before the official campaign period, thus effectively lifting the ban on premature campaigns.

Therefore, to protect the public interest in fair elections, I shall file a bill to amend the Election Code by abolishing a certain provision. I am referring to R.A. No. 9369, also known as the Poll Automation Law, Section 13 which provides "that any person who files his certificate of candidacy shall only be considered as a candidate at the start of the campaign period for which he filed his certificate of candidacy." The bill will reverse the decision in the case of Penera v. Comelec. Further, the bill would give the Comelec the power to define what constitutes electioneering or partisan political activity, meaning, any activity that is designed to promote the election or defeat of any candidate.

In addition, my bill shall require persons seeking to run for public office to file a certain certificate before the deadline for the filing of the certificate of candidacy. This document shall be called "Certificate of Intention to Run for Public Office," or "CIRPO". It will be mandatory to file the CIRPO, otherwise the person will be declared ineligible to file a certificate of candidacy. Once a person files his certificate, then he falls under all the legal prohibitions against premature campaigns.

The CIRPO bill shall provide that any person who has filed the CIRPO shall not engage in any of the following activities:

  • Endorse any product or service, whether or not he accepts a fee;

  • Accept any employment in any media outfit as a news anchor, writer, or regular talent;

  • Buy any print, radio, or TV space to advertise himself or any product or service; and

  • Engage in any activity that the Comelec considers as premature campaigning.

Under the present unfortunate situation, it is now legal to engage in premature campaigns. But not all that is legal is ethical. What kind of senator will a person become, if he uses public funds to advertise himself, by purporting to advertise his agency? What kind of Senate will we have if it is dominated only by the rich who can afford to spend hundreds of millions on traditional media advertising?

I appeal to all the students of state colleges and universities, such as the EARIST, to express as a voter your disapproval of premature campaigns. Use social media, particularly Twitter, Facebook, and your blogs. Tell the senatoriables that their premature campaigns impact negatively public perceptions of their intellectual honesty and their commitment to the democratic principle of equality of opportunity under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. In the social media, you might also add that if the election process is distorted or corrupted, part of the reason is the corporate greed of traditional media that will certainly earn a cash bonanza from this wretched loophole in the law.

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