January 25, 2013

Early Signs of Epalism and the Death of Premature Campaigning

Ang totoong pagbabago ay ang pagbibigay ng totoong serbisyo.” Thus proclaims an ad on page 17 of the January 20, 2013 issue of the Baguio Midland Courier. At the center of the ad is the name “Richard Jimenez”. Half of the ad features a photo – a woman holding a baby, a bunch of other people and a smiling young man who the viewer should readily assume as Richard Jimenez. He's smiling from ear to shining ear. The ad occupies one-fourth of the whole page. It's a HUGE ad. It takes a lot of guts (and money) to put out that kind of advertisement. Whether he paid for it, or friends paid for it, or the Midland Courier published it for free, we don't know because the ad is muted, it doesn't say.

The ad says nothing else except for the tagline “Ang totoong pagbabago ay ang pagbibigay ng totoong serbisyo”, the name “Richard Jimenez” and the photo described earlier. If the ad was published in another time, say five months ago or later, you should be scratching your head as to what kind of purpose it's trying to achieve. But given the fact that we are just a few months away from a political election, you don't have to be a smart fella to make the conclusion that the thing is a political advertisement. An ad placed to further the chances of a certain individual in winning the political seat he is gunning for.

The terms “pagbabago” and “serbisyo”, which were printed in CAPSLOCK in the ad, say it all. These are terms that the public have heard millions of times, over and over again from thousands upon thousands of politicians ever since the first election was held in this country. When you hear a person referring to or speaking about pagbabago or serbisyo, the person's a politician. At least, most of the time. You should brace yourselves in the coming weeks and months for every aspiring politician out there will be spewing shitloads of statements containing the words pagbabago and serbisyo. It's not that there's anything wrong with that. It's a noble idea. However, the voting public keeps falling for them only to watch later on as their hopes and dreams for pagbabago crash and burn to the ground.

The ad doesn't say Richard Jimenez for councilor or Richard Jimenez for congressman. But he's got to be running for something. A few searches on Google does confirm that a certain Richard Jimenez is running for councilor as an independent in the city of Baguio. The ad is a politically-charged campaign. That's my opinion.

Although the ad doesn't mention the fact that he's running for councilor, Richard Jimenez is campaigning. That's what common sense dictates. According to the Omnibus Election Code, the term “election campaign” includes “Publishing or distributing campaign literature or materials designed to support or oppose the election of any candidate”. Jimenez has published campaign literature designed to support his candidacy. That said, he should be guilty of premature campaigning, right? Wrong. He's not guilty of anything as far as the Omnibus Election Code is concerned. Jimenez is not violating anything. He can publish an ad on the front page of the Midland Courier proclaiming his candidacy and you still can't accuse him of premature campaigning.

Here's why.

Section 80 of the Election Code states that “ It shall be unlawful for any person, whether or not a voter or candidate, or for any party, or association of persons, to engage in an election campaign or partisan political activity except during the campaign period”. For anyone to be accused of premature campaigning, the following essentials should be present:
1. a person engages in an election campaign
2. the campaign is designed to promote or oppose a candidate
3. the campaign is done outside the campaign period

Looking at the three essentials above, you would think that Jimenez is violating the Election Code. But here's where the waters get muddied and things get really interesting. The campaign period for city officials will be from March 29 to May 11, 2013. The 2nd essential mentioned above requires the presence of a “candidate”. Although the Election Code states that a candidate is someone who has filed a certificate of candidacy, Section 15 of Republic Act 9369 provides that someone who filed his CoC can only be considered as a candidate during the start of the campaign period which is March 29.

That said, Jimenez can't still be considered a candidate although he filed his CoC. He will only be considered a candidate on March 29, the start of the campaign period. So, the ad published on the Midland Courier cannot be called premature campaigning because no “candidate” is involved. It's crazy but it's true.

The violation of premature campaigning is basically dead in this country. How can you be accused of premature campaigning if it's impossible to commit one. This wasn't always the case. For further reading, I suggest you read about the Rosalinda Penera Vs. Commission on Elections case. Penera, a political candidate was disqualified after being accused of violating the rule on premature campaigning. However, the ruling on the case was reversed because of the fact that although she paraded in the streets proclaiming her candidacy, she did it before the campaign period.

What does this mean? If Domogan parades in Session Road shouting “vote for me” before March 29, 2013 which is the date that the campaign period should start, you can't accuse him of premature campaigning. Yes, he is campaigning but he is not yet considered a candidate because the campaign period hasn't started.

The Omnibus Election Code prohibits premature campaigning but R.A. 9369 and the Supreme Court decision on the Penera vs. Comelec case protects politicians who engage in it. It makes you wonder why should a person be only considered a candidate during the campaign period? Why not consider him a candidate the moment he filed his CoC?

Strange, isn't it?

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