A LITIGANT has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to reconsider its November 25, 2009 ruling scrapping the prohibition in the airing of infomercials or premature campaigning among candidates even prior to the start of the campaign period.

In an 11-page motion for reconsideration, losing mayoralty candidate Edgar Andanar asked the SC to reinstate its September 11, 2009 decision that upheld the disqualification of his political rival, Rosalinda Penera, in the 2007 elections.

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The SC, in its September 2009 decision, affirmed the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) disqualifying Penera as mayoral candidate of Sta. Monica town, in Surigao del Norte for premature campaigning under Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code.

The September 2009 ruling, penned by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, decriminalizes any political activities done before the start of the campaign period, because the ban on premature campaigning remains in effect despite implementation of the Republic Act 9369 or the poll automation law.

“The ban on premature election campaign is a valid exercise of the police power of the State intended to equalize as far as practicable the situations of the rich and poor candidates by preventing the former from enjoying the undue advantage offered by huge campaign war chests,” said Andanar through lawyer Fernando Alameda III in his motion.

Andanar said the intention for the implementation of Section 80 is to prevent the credibility of election in the country from being compromised.

He cited SC Associate Justice Roberto Abad’s dissenting opinion to the resolution dated November 25, 2009, which states that “premature campaigning necessarily entails huge expenditures of funds on the part of the candidates, precipitate violence and even deaths, results in corruption of the electorate, and inflicts direful consequences upon public interest as the vital affairs of the country are sacrificed to purely partisan pursuits.”

The respondent maintained that the poll automation does not decriminalize premature election campaign and in fact does not dwell on the topic of premature election campaign but only with the filing of certificates of candidacy and on the manner of voting and counting the same.

In its November 25 resolution, the SC by a vote of 9-5 granted the motion for reconsideration filed by Penera and ordered her reinstatement as mayor of the town.

The Court agreed with Penera’s arguments that that she cannot be considered a candidate yet when she held a motorcade following her filing of candidacy since held since Section 15 Republic Act 8463, as amended by Republic Act 9369 or the poll automation law redefines the meaning of a candidate.

The provision states that: “any person who files his certificate of candidacy… shall be considered as a candidate within the start of the campaign period…” It further provided that “unlawful acts or omissions applicable to a candidate shall take effect only upon the start of the aforesaid campaign period.”

In effect, the Court said: “There is no premature campaign to speak of” as Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code has effectively been repealed with the implementation of Section 15 of RA 9369.”

With the voiding of Section 80 of the Code, it added, “infomercials may continue before the campaign period as these will be just forms of freedom of expression.”

Penera’s disqualification stemmed for alleged prematurely campaigning when she and her party held a motorcade on March 29, 2007, a day before the start of the authorized campaign period for the May 2007 local and national elections.

Andanar claimed that a day before the campaign period for the 2007 election started, Perena had begun her campaign.

The Comelec had announced that the campaign period for the 2007 elections was set from March 30, 2007 to May 12, 2007. (JCV/Sunnex)