Clarity in policy

Philippine election laws need recalibration to jive with the times.

Take for example campaign finance policies stipulated in Republic Act 7166 (An Act Providing for Synchronized National and Local Elections and for Electoral Reforms, Authorizing Appropriations Therfor, and for other Purposes) where spending figures were based on the prevailing economic and political panorama of the 1990s.

Congress and the Commission on Elections should look into adjusting the spending limits to reflect current economic conditions and take into consideration new modes of campaigning, especially social media.

Comelec should also review its policies on political banners, particularly those posted, displayed, or erected on private property.

As we can recall, controversy arose when a mural supporting a candidate painted on a private property wall in Isabela got “whitewashed” as it was “oversized.”

The incident gave rise to fears that a similar thing will happen to other campaign materials on private properties.

The Comelec said it can regulate spots and sizes of campaign materials, even in private properties. But current election rules and even Supreme Court rulings only referred to posters and similar materials but not murals or paintings.

The Constitutional Law Cluster of UP Law, the Recoletos Law Center and the Civil and Political Rights Clinic-UP Clinical Legal Education Program said that the right to participate in the elections is not limited to voting but extends to the right to campaign as well.

The groups said political speech is a preferred right. And political speech during an election stands at a higher level, to which we agree.

We agree that freedom of expression has limits, but it should be taken in the context of messaging, not the size, medium, or location of the material bearing the message. In fact, regulation of campaign materials should only focus on candidates, not private citizens.

The limits to freedom of expression, even that of private persons, comes into play when the message being displayed, or spread is already prurient or criminal in nature.

We strongly suggest that Comelec revise these rules to allow campaign materials of all colors and sizes in private properties as long as the messages or contents are not contrary to law (libelous, seditious, etc).

Maybe, this controversy will prod Comelec and lawmakers to do some housecleaning of our election laws to reflect a more genuine and realistic tact on our sacred right of suffrage.