Press Release
July 31, 2019

De Lima files measure to clarify, penalize premature campaigning

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a measure seeking to clarify and penalize premature campaigning to ensure an even playing field for all national and local candidates during elections.

Under De Lima's Senate Bill No. 777, candidates who file certificates of candidacies will be considered as candidates at the time of the filing, making them liable for election offenses, including premature campaigning.

"It is high time to address the issue of premature campaigning through a corrective legislative action," said De Lima, a known election lawyer before she joined public service.

Under Section 15 of Republic Act No. 9369, or the Automated Election Systems Law, any person who files his certificate of candidacy shall only be considered as a candidate at the start of the campaign period.

The Supreme Court, however, clarified in the case of Penera v. Commission on Elections that Section 15 of RA No. 9369 does not repeal Section 80 or the provision of the Omnibus Election Code regarding premature campaigning, but it is possible to reconcile these two provisions.

In the recent midterm elections, a Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner was even quoted that there is no law against premature campaigning, whether for manual or automated elections.

"This legislative loophole has been used and abused by offenders in order to gain an undue advantage over their fellow candidates," said De Lima.

De Lima, a former justice secretary, pointed out that the recently-conducted national and local midterm elections had seen "brazen instances of premature campaigning, on top of massive vote buying in unprecedented levels".

"Let us take the necessary steps to ensure an even playing field and foster an environment of fairness and propriety every election season," she said.

Under De Lima's measure, anyone will automatically be considered a candidate upon the filing of his/her certificate of candidacy.

In case of persons holding a public appointive office or positions, including active members of the armed forces and officers and employees of government-owned and controlled corporation, they shall be deemed resigned upon filing of a certificate of candidacy.

Premature campaigning will be punished by disqualification from continuing as candidate or be prevented from holding office in case of victory.

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