Drilon to Comelec: Don’t dip your fingers in partisan politics

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to refrain from engaging in partisan politics and warned election regulators that appearance of bias at partiality may pose serious threats to the integrity and credibility of the 2022 national and local elections.
“The credibility of the 2022 national and local elections relies on the ability of the Comelec to properly execute the election laws. I would like to remind the agency of its constitutional mandate to ensure free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections,” Drilon said in a statement on Saturday.
“I am alarmed, therefore, by the reports of abuses and partisanship surrounding the implementation of ‘Oplan Baklas’. It reeks of partisan politics. Any appearance of bias and partiality may cast a dark cloud over the credibility of the election process,” Drilon stressed.
“Does the Comelec also intend to remove faces of candidates plastered on commercial buses and billboards along EDSA? The same principle applies as these are also private properties but exposed to the public,” he added.
Drilon said election officers should not dip their fingers in partisan politics.
“Let us maintain the nonpartisan nature of election officers. They must shun politics at all costs. Otherwise, the credibility of the elections, most particularly the presidential election will suffer,” Drilon said.
The former justice secretary said that election jurisprudence upheld the exercise of the citizens of their constitutional right to free speech during elections.
Section 9 of Republic Act No. 9006 allows candidates to post any lawful propaganda material “in private places with the consent of the owner thereof, and in public places or property which shall be allocated equitably and impartially among the candidates,” Drilon noted.
In Adiong v. Comelec, Drilon said that the Supreme Court ruled 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 anybody else.”
There was already a Supreme Court ruling related to this in Diocese of Bacolod v. Comelec, when the Diocese of Bacolod displayed on its property, tarpaulins which exceeded the recommended size by the Comelec.
The Supreme Court, in no uncertain terms said that Section 9 of the Fair Election Act which limits the size of campaign materials only mentions candidates and parties – “these provisions pertain to candidates and political parties. 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 Court said that size limitations hit at a core part of freedom of expression and that any curtailment of that freedom should be narrowly-tailored to fit the purpose intended. The Court cited the case of Adiong v. Comelec, which said that a restriction on where decals and posters can be posted is too broad as it affects private property. The Court further said that any regulation which constitutes an arbitrary or unreasonable infringement of property rights is void.
“The Comelec should be reminded of its limitations. It cannot destroy or remove campaign materials such as signages posted inside private properties without the benefit of due process. This limitation holds even more importance now that so many initiatives are volunteer-led and sponsored, something which we have never seen in the past,” Drilon said.
“A property owner has every right to refuse entry to anyone including the election officers,” he added.

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