Private citizens have the right to refuse authorities entry to their homes to take down oversized campaign posters and tarps and forcibly dismantling such materials is illegal, Vice President Leni Robredo's lawyer said Thursday.
The removal of tarps and posters put up by supporters of Robredo's presidential campaign, regardless of the size, violates the right to freedom of expression, lawyer Romulo Macalintal said.
Authorities removed the posters because they exceeded the allowed size, Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez had said.
"You should refuse entry. You should exercise your right. Ipaglaban n'yo po ang inyong karapatan kasi karapatan ninyo 'yan na huwag kayo magpapasok sa bahay ninyo nang sinomang tao na ayaw ninyong papasukin," Macalintal said.
"'Yung bahay mo,' di puwedeng pasukin nang wala kang pahintulot. Kaya 'yung mga nasa private properties na mga poster d'yan, 'pag sinisita kayo, pinapatanggal sa inyo at sa tingin ninyo ayaw n'yo naman tanggalin at kaya n'yo naman ipaglaban na huwag tanggalin, huwag nyo po sila papasukin."
Macalintal said Comelec violated private citizens' right to due process when they removed the campaign materials without a hearing. He said poll body also violated the law when they trespassed on a private dwelling and seized private property without any warrant.
"Papasukin mo na wala kang warrant of seizure? Bakit 'yung mga granada't baril, mga kung ano-anong illegal drugs 'di mo mapasok without any warant tapos ganitong campaign materials in the exercise of freedom of expression papasukin mo nang walang warrant? Baka siguro mag-isip-isip naman kayo mga taga-Comelec."
Comelec assistant regional director Jovencio Balanquit earlier said the poll body could only ask owners of private property to remove the oversized tarpaulins. He said Comelec can take down the campaign materials only if the property owners ask them to.
"Hindi po puwede ang Comelec, as a general rule, na pumasok sa private properties, whether the material is illegal or unlawful... hindi pa rin puwede because we respect the privacy," he told TeleRadyo on Wednesday.
"'Pag 'di pa rin n'ya tinanggal, then we will take probably the next step which could be the submission to our appropriate department for appropriate legal action but never that we will enter the property to remove the campaign material."
The size limit does not apply to non-candidates, Macalintal said, calling the Comelec's interpretation of the law as "extreme" and "misdirected."
Robredo's spokesperson Barry Gutierrez said the vice president had not decided whether to take action against Comelec and the police.
"Hingin 'yung pagkakaroon ng due notice and hearing, hindi 'yung biglaan na lang pagbaklas. Obviously kung talagang ipipilit, huwag lumaban, wala ka namang magagawa pero i-document. Kung sakali mang kailangan magsampa ng kaso later on... meron kang pinaghawakang ebidensya."