SC: Comelec order vs campaign materials posted in private properties unconstitutional
THE Supreme Court (SC) ruled that campaign materials posted inside private properties can neither be regulated nor removed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
The Court en banc, in a decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Midas P. Marquez, ruled that the removal or destruction of campaign materials inside a private property is «unconstitutional.» "… the Comelec's implementation of Oplan Baklas… is unconstitutional as it exceeded the bounds of permissible regulation under Republic Act (RA) 9006 [or the Fair Elections Act] and Comelec Resolution 10730," said the Court in its decision, dated Oct. 10, 2023, but released on October 24, which granted granted the Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition, and Mandamus filed by St. Anthony College of Roxas City, Inc. against the Comelec.PHOTO From SUPREME COURT OFFICIAL WEBSITE
St. Anthony College and other private persons were the owners and co-owners of tarpaulins, posters, murals, and other materials displayed on their premises, expressing support and soliciting votes for former Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo, who was a candidate for president in the May 9, 2022, national and local elections.
Comelec implements Operation Baklas every election to remove campaign materials that are not in accordance with the prescribed size and those posted in public places outside of the designated common poster areas.
Under RA 9006, the High Court pointed out, that the Comelec can regulate election propaganda owned by candidates and political parties.
The Court pointed out that while the Comelec may validly implement Oplan Baklas, the operation is only limited to candidates and political parties. but not against private individuals expressing their political preference in support of a candidate or political party.
«It does not allow the Comelec to regulate the political speech of private persons on private property,» it said.
In the St. Anthony College case, the High Court also pointed out that the Comelec likewise violated the property rights of the school because it had no legal basis to enter the said private property and removed the campaign materials.
The Court stressed that it «has always protected political speech as one