Press Release
March 3, 2022

De Lima backs petitions vs COMELEC's permit system and OPLAN Baklas

Re-electionist Senator Leila M. de Lima backed the petition filed by supporters of presidential aspirant and Vice President Leni Robredo that seeks to prevent the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) from enforcing a resolution requiring permits for campaign activities.

De Lima, a former election lawyer, said the COMELEC cannot curtail people's rights to campaign for their preferred candidates, especially when done so through their own initiative.

"I applaud and fully support the petition filed by the residents of Baguio City questioning COMELEC rules that require permits to conduct election campaign activities," she said.

Last Feb. 28, supporters of Robredo filed a Petition before the Baguio City Regional Trial Court (RTC) seeking to nullify Comelec Resolution No. 10732 requiring volunteer groups supporting candidates to secure a permit from the poll body for face-to-face campaign activities.

On the same day, Baguio RTC Executive Judge Ligaya Itliong-Rivera issued a 72-hour temporary restraining order (TRO) against the said resolution, saying in an order that "the petitioners would suffer grave and irreparable injury" to their rights of freedom of expression and assembly.

De Lima said she agrees with the petitioners that the permit system of the COMELEC unnecessarily curtails their freedom of speech and expression in campaigning for their chosen candidates, even if they are just ordinary citizens.

"This is the first time the COMELEC imposed such a requirement in election campaigning purportedly in light of the "new normal" conditions under the COVID-19 pandemic.

"However, COMELEC can only issue rules that it is authorized to promulgate under the Constitution and election laws. This does not include the power to require permits in the conduct of election campaign activities," she said.

"To campaign for chosen candidates is a most basic right of citizens. COMELEC simply has no business pre-conditioning the exercise of such right on the existence of a permit," she added.

The lady Senator from Bicol also expressed support to the petition filed with the Supreme Court against the COMELEC questioning its Operation Baklas that removes even campaign materials put up on private property by the owner himself.

"The regulation size provided in the Fair Elections Act clearly applies only to campaign materials put up by the candidates on public places and common poster areas, and not those put up by ordinary supporters on their own property," she said.

"The COMELEC has gone overboard in its zeal to administer the elections and election campaigning. However, it should not do this at the expense of the basic rights of citizens to express their support and campaign for their chosen candidates," she added.

Paraphrasing Charles De Gaulle, De Lima said that "politics is too serious a matter to be left to politicians".

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