May 27, 2024

Commission on Elections Resolution 10730 states that tarpaulins are allowed to be posted in authorized common poster areas in public spaces and in private properties with consent of owners.
It provides that campaign posters must not exceed 2 x 3 feet, except when posted during a public meeting or a rally, where it can measure up to 3 x 8 feet. It also said that posters posted in private property “must also comply with the allowable size requirement.”
Recently, the Comlec through its Oplan Baklas went on an overacting baklas spree all over including here in Baguio City and it seems it overstepped its mandate when it removed campaign posters inside private properties. The action of entering and tearing posters is a “clear case of arbitrary abuse of power” and violation of constitutional right to property.
Campaign posters are the properties of the owners who posted them on their private properties, with a right to use the said property in whatsoever wish they want. Police and firemen should take no part in the dismantling or seizing of campaign materials without proper warrant.
The provisions on election propaganda materials in Republic Act 9006 or the Fair Election Act pertain only to candidates and political parties. There is nothing in the law that says that they could be applied to non-candidates. The Comelec cannot prescribe what the law does not provide. Thus supporters, not campaigners, not officially part of the campaign team, not campaign workers, not employees of the campaign, and ordinary citizens who support or are expressing their support are not covered.
In 2015, the Supreme Court voted in favor of the Diocese of Bacolod in relation to tarpaulin sizes. The case involved two tarpaulins mounted in a private compound housing the San Sebastian Cathedral of Bacolod. Each had a size of 6 x 10 feet, beyond the standard size for printed materials.
The SC said that the poll body has “no legal basis to regulate expressions made by private citizens.” x x x “Petitioners are not candidates. Neither do they belong to any political party. Comelec does not have the authority to regulate the enjoyment of the preferred right to freedom of expression exercised by a non-candidate in this case, the poll body can only regulate the exercise of freedom of expression of franchise holders and candidates. The size of the tarpaulins is also considered ‘protected’ by the Constitution. Large tarpaulins, therefore, are not analogous to time and place. They are fundamentally part of expression protected under Article III, Section 4 of the Constitution.”
The ruling means that election propaganda made at the behest of non-candidates would no longer be covered by the size restrictions or by any existing regulations in RA 9006.
To illustrate the practical impact of this new interpretation, non-candidates can now put up campaign propaganda as big as the billboards at Skyworld along Session Road, and contract unlimited TV, radio, and print ads, free from any form of regulation.
The SC effectively prevents the poll body from removing campaign materials in private properties. The ruling also stated that requiring a fixed size for posters render freedom of speech meaningless.
Comelec filed a motion for reconsideration but was rebuffed: “This Court’s decision discussed that the tarpaulin consists of a satire of political parties that primarily advocates a stand on a social issue; only secondarily — even almost incidentally — will cause the election or non-election of a candidate. It should not be election propaganda as its message are different from the usual declarative messages of candidates.”
Note that in this pronouncement it appears that it is only when the tarpaulin “primarily advocates a stand on a social issue; and only secondarily – even most incidentally – will cause the election or non election of a candidate” will the poster size requirement under section 3.3 of RA 9006 not apply to those placed in private properties.
“The Comelec clampdown is clearly designed to create a climate of fear as more and more people are now standing up and demanding for a change in leadership – one that is clean, efficient and for the people.”
It also applies to stickers, and laws don’t allow the Comelec to summarily intrude, enter and worse, dismantle private property.
The SC has stated in Adiong vs. Comelec that, “A sticker may be furnished by a candidate but once the car owner agrees to have it placed on his private vehicle, the expression becomes a statement by the owner, primarily his own and not of anybody else.”
As usual, the Comelec is “palpak!”