Define 'premature campaigning,' Drilon urges Comelec

Former Senate President Frank Drilon urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) today to issue a circular “defining in very clear terms” what would constitute premature campaigning now that the deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy (COC) in the 2010 polls has been moved to an earlier date.

Drilon, who is also national chairman of the Liberal Party (LP), said he would like to know whether appearances in TV soap operas and other television advertisements by candidates before the official campaign period opens would constitute premature campaigning.

Drilon asked for the clarification as he warned that the earlier deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy, November 30, gives candidates a two-month period within which they might conduct premature campaigning. The official campaign period for national positions starts in mid-February.

Drilon explained that under Section 13 of Republic Act 9369 or the Automated Election Law that was signed by the President recently, the deadline for the filing of the certificates of candidacy for those running in the 2010 polls will be moved to an earlier date.

“I urged Comelec Chairman Jose Melo to consider issuing a circular that will define in very clear terms what activities are considered premature campaigning given the new schedules brought about by the Automated Election Law,” Drilon said.

“Such a circular could avoid the unnecessary controversies and confusions that will arise after the candidates file their certificates of candidacy two months before the start of the actual campaign period,” Drilon explained.

“During this period, can a candidate set up a huge billboard along EDSA bearing his face and name while endorsing a popular soap product or appear on frequent TV advertisements? Will that be premature campaigning considering that the candidates has already filed his certificate of candidacy?” Drilon further said,

Drilon said Comelec should issue a circular so that candidates could avoid activities that may be considered premature and illegal campaigning.

Earlier, the Comelec said it was eyeing other changes in the election calendar after it moved up the deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy to November instead of early 2010 in accordance with the provisions of the Election Automation Law.

Comelec legal department chief Ferdinand Rafanan said the poll body was looking into the possibility of moving party convention schedules to an earlier date as well.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo said those planning to run for public office in 2010 would have to come out earlier than expected as the deadline for the filing of COCs has been advanced to November.

The deadline for filing COCs is usually in February for national posts and March for local posts prior to the elections in May. Rafanan said it was unlikely the poll agency would change the campaign period, which is from 60 to 90 days before the elections. The Comelec moved the last day for filing COCs to November 30 to give the winning bidder of the poll automation contract ample time to produce the ballots.

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