The curse of premature campaigning has returned to the Philippines but with both houses of Congress uninterested in instituting measures against the practice, the Commission on Elections remains powerless and is unlikely to go after violators in next year’s elections.
When Comelec spokesman James Jimenez asked about the chances of the passage of law enabling the poll body to stop the perennial problem of premature campaigning, Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon replied that any legislation pushed now will not have enough time to make it in time for the 2022 elections.
Biazon noted that a person cannot be charged with premature campaigning if he or she has not officially filed a certificate of candidacy because until then, the individual is not considered a candidate. For him the only way to stop the practice is to move the filing of candidacy much earlier, a solution the Comelec is not predisposed to.
Under existing rules, the commission has no police power to prevent potential candidates from engaging in premature campaigning so it has long been pushing for legislative relief.
The problem, Jimenez said, is that measures against premature campaigning have never been a priority to both houses of Congress that is populated by politicians who have been benefiting from the current loopholes.
All Comelec can do at this point is to appeal to people who have expressed intentions whether in actions or words to run for an elective post in May 2022 to have the decency to refrain from premature campaigning as well as early campaign spending.
Can Filipinos count our candidates to have the decency to play fair and do the right thing? Can we count on our elected legislators to pass measures against premature campaigning, a loophole they themselves most likely exploited in their journey to public office? Who has the power and the determination to address this problem with our candidates for public office who start or continue their careers by exploiting loopholes to gain an advantage for themselves?*