1. Premature campaigning is not illegal.
2. A candidate cannot be disqualified for premature campaigning.
3. Politicians are only liable for election offenses only at the start of the campaign period. Politicians who filed their candidacies are only deemed as candidates at the start of the campaign period.
4. There is a significant time between the filing of candidacy and the start of the campaign period- this was intended for the printing of ballots and preparations of the COMELEC for the elections. In this span of time the Supreme Court said that the politicians who filed their candidacies are not yet liable for election offenses.
The foregoing precepts were established by the Supreme Court the case Penera vs. COMELEC1 wherein it reversed itself in a motion for reconsideration in G.R. No. 181613 dated September 11, 2009. The Supreme Court in the said case agreed to the petitioners when they argued that:
Section 79(a) of the Omnibus Election Code defines a candidate as any person aspiring for or seeking an elective public office, who has filed a certificate of candidacy x x x. The second sentence, third paragraph, Section 15 of RA 8436, as amended by Section 13 of RA 9369, provides that [a]ny person who files his certificate of candidacy within [the period for filing] shall only be considered as a candidate at the start of the campaign period for which he filed his certificate of candidacy.The immediately succeeding proviso in the same third paragraph states that unlawful acts or omissions applicable to a candidate shall take effect only upon the start of the aforesaid campaign period. These two provisions determine the resolution of this case.
The Supreme Court said in the reversal that the law is clear and therefore it must be upheld, to wit:
It is a basic principle of law that any act is lawful unless expressly declared unlawful by law. This is specially true to expression or speech, which Congress cannot outlaw except on very narrow grounds involving clear, present and imminent danger to the State. The mere fact that the law does not declare an act unlawful ipso facto means that the act is lawful. Thus, there is no need for Congress to declare in Section 15 of RA 8436, as amended by RA 9369, that political partisan activities before the start of the campaign period are lawful. It is sufficient for Congress to state that any unlawful act or omission applicable to a candidate shall take effect only upon the start of the campaign period. The only inescapable and logical result is that the same acts, if done before the start of the campaign period, are lawful.
In laymans language, this means that a candidate is liable for an election offense only for acts done during the campaign period, not before. The law is clear as daylight any election offense that may be committed by a candidate under any election law cannot be committed before the start of the campaign period. In ruling that Penera is liable for premature campaigning for partisan political acts before the start of the campaigning, the assailed Decision ignores the clear and express provision of the law.
The Decision rationalizes that a candidate who commits premature campaigning can be disqualified or prosecuted only after the start of the campaign period. This is not what the law says. What the law says is any unlawful act or omission applicable to a candidate shall take effect only upon the start of the campaign period. The plain meaning of this provision is that the effective date when partisan political acts become unlawful as to a candidate is when the campaign period starts. Before the start of the campaign period, the same partisan political acts are lawful.
The law does not state, as the assailed Decision asserts, that partisan political acts done by a candidate before the campaign period are unlawful, but may be prosecuted only upon the start of the campaign period. Neither does the law state that partisan political acts done by a candidate before the campaign period are temporarily lawful, but becomes unlawful upon the start of the campaign period. This is clearly not the language of the law. Besides, such a law as envisioned in the Decision, which defines a criminal act and curtails freedom of expression and speech, would be void for vagueness.
Congress has laid down the law a candidate is liable for election offenses only upon the start of the campaign period. This Court has no power to ignore the clear and express mandate of the law that any person who files his certificate of candidacy within [the filing] period shall only be considered a candidate at the start of the campaign period for which he filed his certificate of candidacy. Neither can this Court turn a blind eye to the express and clear language of the law that any unlawful act or omission applicable to a candidate shall take effect only upon the start of the campaign period.
The forum for examining the wisdom of the law, and enacting remedial measures, is not this Court but the Legislature. This Court has no recourse but to apply a law that is as clear, concise and express as the second sentence, and its immediately succeeding proviso, as written in the third paragraph of Section 15 of RA 8436, as amended by RA 9369.