Comelec should suspend the implementation of its regulations on posting campaign materials by non-candidates in private properties to give it time to review guidelines that have come under fire for alleged abuse, an election lawyer said.
The suspension should last until the start of the campaign period for local candidates on March 25 "in order to have uniform policy for both national and local candidates", said Romulo Macalintal.
Macalintal directed his letter to the Comelec on his own and not as a lawyer for Vice President Leni Robredo, whom he has represented in the past. It was Robredo's supporters who raised alarm over the removal of her campaign posters and tarps that were put up by volunteers.
Macalintal said non-candidates are not covered by the Comelec guidelines on posting campaign materials. He also disagreed with the poll body's position that only materials that express advocacies are exempted from regulation.
Citing the Supreme Court ruling on Adiong vs. Comelec, he said that when a non-candidate posted on his property a campaign material, "he is expressing more than the name; he is espousing ideas."
"In a word, he is expressing his own advocacy because the candidate’s advocacies and that of their supporters’ are indivisible; and it is fair to say that one’s choice of candidate represents one’s own advocacies," Macalintal said.
"Thus, even if the campaign material is given by a candidate to a non-candidate and the latter agrees to have it posted on his own property, the expression becomes a statement by the owner, primarily his own and not of anybody else," he added.
Macalintal also asked the Comelec to suspend the provision which, according to him, presumes the guilt of both candidates and parties who posted the campaign materials on prohibited areas, saying that it should be deleted for its unconstitutionality and apparent absurdity.
While it was open to reviewing the guidelines on campaign posters, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the poll body would continue its "Oplan Baklas" especially for campaign posters that are posted in restricted areas.
"Hindi naman yung kabuuan ng Operation Baklas ang kontrobersyal, doon lang sa involved ang private property. But for the streets, yung mga nasa public spaces, yung nakakakabit sa kawad ng kuryente, tuloy kaming magbabaklas," he said in an interview on Monday.