Thursday, April 21, 2016

SC stops Comelec from implementing ban on overseas campaigning

BAGUIO CITY — Overseas Filipinos for now can continue campaigning for their preferred national candidates in the May 2016 elections despite the ongoing overseas absentee voting.
This was after the Supreme Court, in its last summer session for the year, partially granted a petition from Filipino-American Loida Nicolas-Lewis by issuing a temporary restraining order against portions of the laws on overseas absentee voting and a Commission on Elections (Comelec) resolution banning the practice of partisan political activity abroad during the overseas voting period.

Through the TRO, the SC "enjoined the Comelec, its deputies and other related instrumentalities from implementing the following: (i) Section 36.8 of Republic Act No. 9189, as amended by RA 10590; and (ii) Section 74 (II) (8) and other related provisions of Comelec resolution No. 10035."
The high court, however, clarified that overseas Filipinos are prohibited from campaigning and conducting partisan political activities within Philippine Embassies, Consulates, and other posts where overseas voters may exercise their right to vote pursuant to the Overseas Absentee Voting System.
The SC also ordered the Comelec to file its comment on Lewis' petition within five days.
The overseas voting period started on April 9 and will last until May 9, election day in the Philippines. 
Nicolas-Lewis, who is based in the US and is legally represented by the Ateneo Human Rights Center, said she was "aghast" when she and other overseas Filipinos were prohibited by 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. 
In her petition, she 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." 
The petitioner said the contested provisions prejudiced not only her right to freedom of expression, but also of others in future cases involving the information and education of the electorate. 
Nicolas-Lewis said the contested provisions particularly violated Articles 1 and 4 of the Philippine Constitution, on due process and equal protection of laws, and freedom of speech, expression and assembly. She also stressed that there is no criminal jurisdiction over Filipinos abroad. 
The petitioner said rules on campaigning abroad should be more relaxed than that in the Philippines. —KBK, GMA News

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