December 2, 2022

RESPONSIBLE EXERCISE OF POLITICAL RIGHTS

The local court ruling that stopped the Commission on Elections from implementing a resolution that requires candidates and their supporters to secure a permit first from the commission before conducting election campaign activities is a welcome development.
At the same time, we call on supporters of any candidate vying for national or local elective position to be responsible when conducting activities to promote their candidates, especially since we are still in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Feb. 28, Baguio Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Ligaya Itliong-Rivera issued a temporary restraining order against Comelec Resolution 10730 that requires candidates to apply for a permit before the Comelec Campaign Committee having jurisdiction over the area where they intend to hold election-related activity 72 hours prior to their event.
Supporters of one of the presidential front runners in Baguio have asked the court to nullify Comelec Resolution 10732 and prayed for the issuance of a TRO and writ of preliminary injunction, saying the guidelines infringe on their right to expression and right to peaceful assembly.
While we welcome the court’s granting of the petition, we also call on supporters of candidates to exercise prudence when conducting election-related activities that go against the observance of the minimum public health standards.
The assailed Comelec resolution was issued against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and we believe the poll body’s main consideration in requiring permits is not to stifle the people’s freedom of expression or their right to peaceably assemble, but as a precaution against the possible spread of the virus that causes the Covid-19 infection.
This, as the holding of election-related events allow the gathering of a crowd and physical or face-to-face interactions.
While photographs, videos, and drone footage of droves of supporters converging in political rallies are posted in the social media to prove who among the candidates have more supporters, such gathering of people must be regulated at this point in time.
We call on volunteers and candidates or political parties to be the role models in the public’s adhe- rence to the minimum public health protocols and remind their supporters to abide by these rules.
Supporters, meanwhile, should also ensure they do not put their candidates in bad light by not observing or complying with the protocols put in place to safeguard public health and safety.
In times like this where the holding of political events that gather crowds is inevitable, being a main component of a democratic society, it is our hope that the candidates’ and their supporters’ exercise of their rights are done responsibly so as not to compromise others’ right to be free from the threats of the Covid-19 that, for two years now, has limited our freedoms.

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