MANILA An election lawyer said Wednesday there is nothing wrong with President Rodrigo Duterte's gesture in raising the hand of senatorial aspirant and singer Freddie Aguilar.
In a statement, lawyer Romulo Macalintal noted that the recording artist is not yet considered a candidate for the May 2019 mid-term polls since the campaign period has not yet begun.
However, in an automated election, where the certificate of candidacy (COC) of candidates have to be filed early to enable Comelec (Commission on Elections) to print the names of the candidates on the ballots, those who filed their COCs are not yet treated as 'candidate' for purposes of applying the rules prohibiting premature campaigning, Macalintal said.
Since Aguilar is not yet considered as a candidate, then it is as if the President is not campaigning for a 'candidate' and therefore not liable for any election offense, he added.
Macalintal was reacting to the statement of Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo that President Duterte did not use the word vote when he raised the hand of Aguilar, urging those present in an event on Monday, to vote for the singer.
After all, the President, like any other elected public officials, by the very nature of their office, engage in partisan political activities almost all year round, even outside of the campaign period, he said. Political partisanship is the inevitable essence of a political office, elective positions included, as held by the Supreme Court in the 2010 case of Quinto vs. Comelec.
Macalintal noted that what the government official and MalacaAang should do is to support the move to implement the law on electioneering.
Perhaps Congress could enact a law wherein expenses incurred by candidates upon the filing of their COCs be included in the computation of their allowable or authorized expenses, instead of asking them to account only for expenses incurred at the time of the campaign period. In this way, premature campaigning will be minimized if not totally eradicated since candidates must also save for expenses when the campaign period legally starts, he added.
The campaign period for national positions will start on Feb. 12, 2019 and will last until May 11, 2019. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency