Overseas campaign ban only covers PHL territories, poll exec clarifies
The law's prohibition on campaigning during the 30-day overseas absentee voting only applies to Philippine territories, an official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) clarified Wednesday.
These areas include embassies, consulates, and designated voting centers, Commissioner Arthur Lim, head of the poll body's committee on overseas voting, said.
Lim made the clarification after a petition was filed with the Supreme Court questioning provisions in law that ban campaigning overseas during the month-long overseas absentee voting period.
The high tribunal has issued a temporary restraining order on the implementation of the said provisions. However, this TRO still holds the prohibition "within Philippine embassies, consulates, and other posts where voters may exercise their right to vote."
"Walang away dahil ang Comelec... Paano natin maipagbabawal 'yung pag-campaign sa labas ng embassy natin, hindi naman natin teritoryo 'yun?" Lim said.
"Ang pinagbabawal ng Comelec ay campaigning doon sa loob ng ating embahada, konsulada o kaya voting center kung saan the election is actually taking place, like the Bayanihan Center in Hong Kong," he added.
Lim said they were "surprised" about the filing of the petition.
"With all due respect, we see no need for the temporary restraining order, although the Supreme Court cannot be faulted. It merely acted on the basis of the petition," he said.
"Baka ang impression, pinagbabawalan natin 'yung pagkakampanya sa mga palengke ng Hong Kong, sa mga plaza sa kung anumang lugar. Wala tayong jurisdiction doon, bakit tayo doon magpapatupad sa public places?" Lim added.
According to Lewis, she and other overseas Filipinos were prohibited by the different Philippine Consulates from conducting information campaigns, as well as rallies and outreach programs in support of their respective candidates, especially for the presidential and vice presidential race.
The petitioner said while the contested provisions reflected the spirit behind the Omnibus Election Code, "the manner by which this is to be carried out fails to consider the unique context of overseas absentee voting, thereby resulting in the undue curtailment of the most cherished rights of freedom of speech and expression, and of information."
Lim, in turn, said: "We would like to go on record that we are not enforcing or trying to enforce our law in areas abroad where the Philippines does not have jurisdiction... Our laws are effective and enforceable only in our territories." —KBK, GMA News
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