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MANILA, Philippines – Ethical questions raised on the apparent premature campaigning by some senatorial aspirants in the May 2013 polls have prompted Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago to file a measure seeking to ban early political activity in any media.
Santiago said that because of a controversial 2009 Supreme Court decision, a premature campaign is no longer an offense, thus creating what she called “a wretched loophole in the law.”
She called the present situation “preposterous, ridiculous, and ludicrous.
"It might be legal, but is it ethical?” Santiago asked her audience of some 1,000 college students in a forum at Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST) in Sampaloc, Manila.
Santiago was guest speaker at a symposium on Saturday, sponsored by the graduate student council of the EARIST.
Santiago said she will file a bill to amend the Poll Automation Law, Section 13 which provides that “a person shall only be considered as a candidate at the start of the campaign period for which he filed his certificate of candidacy.”
According to a Comelec resolution, the campaign period for the May 2013 elections begins on February 12, 2013, but since August, some candidates have been advertising themselves in traditional media, meaning TV, radio, and print; and others in bus billboards.
Among them are former Las Pinas Rep. Cynthia Villar with her Hanep ang Buhay campaign ads, Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero endorsing a food product and Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara endorsing a family health product. The case of TESDA Director General Joel Villanueva has often been raised as well by critics, noting the proliferation of various ads and billboard announcements on the agency programs, with Villanueva’s image shown prominently .
Santiago said the confusion about premature campaigning was caused by the controversial split decision of the Supreme Court in the 2009 case of Penera v. Comelec.
To overturn the controversial Penera decision, Santiago said her bill will require candidates to file a Certificate of Intention to Run for Public Office or CIRPO, six months before the deadline for the filing of a certificate of candidacy.
Santiago’s CIRPO bill will prohibit any potential candidate from certain acts, such as endorsing any product or service; accepting any employment in any media outfit; or buying any space in radio, print, or TV to advertise himself or any product or service.
The senator said her bill will give the Comelec the power to define what constitutes electioneering.
She also urged her audience and the public to use social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and blogs to protest the ongoing premature campaigns by certain senatoriables, as she warned aspirants of a backlash in early campaigning.
Although Santiago has been absent for sometime from Senate sessions, because of health issues, she said that she forced herself to appear as a courtesy to EARIST, which invited her two months ago. But she said it is uncertain whether she can attend Senate sessions before the break, which begins on September 22.
Santiago began her speech with her anticipated jokes, particularly pick-up lines.