Comelec taking down the “abuse of power” posters

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THE GOVERNMENT is abusing its power to seize oversized campaign materials from private property, according to an election lawyer.

Citizens can display any size of posters inside their property because freedom of speech is protected by the 1987 Constitution, election attorney Romulo B. Macalintal told a press briefing. online Thursday. “That this is highly arbitrary and a clear case of abuse of power and discretion and violation of his constitutional right to property.”

The Electoral Commission (Comelec) ordered law enforcement to remove the oversized campaign materials even inside private property, which the lawyer says amounts to seizure without a warrant.

Candidates in this year’s elections could sue the electoral body in the Supreme Court for abuse of power, Mr Macalintal said.

“We are currently investigating the possibility of filing the appropriate brief so that the rules on this matter are further clarified,” said Ibarra M. Gutierrez III, spokesperson for Vice President and presidential candidate Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo. same briefing.

“The right of action currently rests with those directly affected,” he said. “It’s their private property, they’re individuals and they’re not tied to the campaign.”

Earlier, authorities removed campaign posters of Ms. Robredo and her running mate, Senator Francis “Kiko” N. Pangilinan, inside a private property.

Civic groups and former Comelec officials have criticized the Comelec order, which provides that election posters, even on private property, must not exceed six square feet.

Candidates are also prohibited from shaking hands, hugging, kissing, standing arm-in-arm and taking selfies with political supporters under health protocols amid a coronavirus pandemic.

Videos and photos of authorities removing campaign materials posted by supporters of the opposition tandem on private properties have gone viral.

Earlier this week, a team led by Comelec dismantled tarpaulins on display at a volunteer center in Quezon City. The area, which used to be a bus station, is privately owned by a supporter.

A viral video also showed police helping to remove posters and tarps at the Robredo-Pangilinan Tandem Campaign Volunteer Headquarters in Santiago, Isabela, in the northern Philippines.

Former Congressman Neri J. Colmenares, who is running for senator, said the rule could be weaponized against opposition candidates.

“I agree that Comelec’s rules are too strict,” he told CNN Philippines. “While of course we know it’s for the pandemic, they’ve overstepped the mark. It’s too much, it’s absurd.

The Supreme Court has in the past reminded Comelec not to overstep its authority, lawyers from the University of the Philippines said in a statement, citing 2015 case law.

“Political speech is a privileged right,” they declared. “Political discourse in an election is on a higher level.

Lawyers also said citizens could politely prevent Comelec authorities from accessing private property. “The destruction of private signs and other political expressions inside private property cannot be done arbitrarily, and certainly without notice or a hearing.”

Senator and presidential bet Panfilo M. Lacson, Sr. said Comelec should review the campaign rules because some of them are impractical.

“When they make resolutions and by-laws, they must be enforceable and binding,” he told reporters in a mix of English and Filipino. He said it was impractical to ask for permission for every campaign activity.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, vice president of Mr. Lacson’s vice presidency, said the rules were not well thought out. He joked that he would look for a vacant lot and put a 50-by-50 tarp of Senator Emmanuel “Manny” D. Pacquiao there and see if he would be disqualified for it.

“It may be a constitutional issue,” Lacson said. “It’s my property and I can do whatever I want as long as I don’t hurt others.”

Meanwhile, Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva, who is running for re-election, has asked Comelec to show flexibility and review its rules. He noted that even though an interagency task force no longer requires the use of face shields, the electoral body still does.

Human rights lawyer and senatorial candidate Jose Manuel “Chel” I. Diokno said law enforcement does not have the authority to take down posters and tarps – regardless of size – on private property.

The law also prohibits them from entering homes, offices or any private property without a search warrant or permission from the owner.

Acting Comelec President Socorro B. Inting told reporters on Thursday that they would review the campaign rules face-to-face. — Kyle Aristopher T. Atienza and ANO Tan

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