Press Release
October 28, 2018

Senate panel recommends 'criminalization' of premature campaigning

The Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People's Participation has recommended the "criminalization" of premature campaigning of election candidates.

In its Committee Report No. 492 filed last Oct. 18, the panel effectively seeks to restore the provision found in the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines, which prohibits premature campaigning long before the election period had set in.

The said report on Senate Bill No. 2064 also redefines the term "candidate." The bill was authored by Senators Leila de Lima, Richard Gordon and Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III.

"A person shall be considered a candidate the moment he files his certificate of candidacy (COC) within the period provided by the Commission on Elections," the report said.

This means that any form of partisan political activity by a candidate prior to his filing of COC or way before the start of the official campaign period will be considered "premature campaigning" and therefore unlawful.

Under the existing law, RA 9369, a person seeking elective position is considered a candidate only during the entire campaign period. The said law in effect, decriminalized "premature campaigning."

"The unfair repercussions of this rule are far and wide. It propagates political inequality as it unduly favors rich or popular candidates over poor or less popular candidates. It also negates transparency and accountability as it shamelessly excludes such premature campaigning from the regulation of campaign finance and the limitations on election campaign and expenditures," Gordon said.

Premature campaigning is an election offense punishable by imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years, as well as disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage under Sec. 80 and Section 264 of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines.

"The barrage of political advertisements on TV and radio and the obvious electioneering or campaigning by many candidates way before the start of the official campaign period in the last elections were too much to be ignored," Gordon said.

Pimentel, chair of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People's Participation, will sponsor the approval of bill upon the resumption of the regular sessions in November.

Those who signed the report, aside from Pimentel, were Senators Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, Gordon, Grace Poe, Loren Legarda, Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao, Francis "Chiz" Escudero, Nancy Binay, Win Gatchalian, Risa Hontiveros, Majority Leader Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri and Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.

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