Retired poll commissioner shows off huge billboard amid Comelec’s ‘Oplan Baklas’

February 17, 2022 - 7:37 PM
Guanzon billboard
A picture of a billboard featuring retired Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon endorsing the P3PWD party-list as posted on her Twitter on Feb. 17, 2022. (Photo from Twitter/rowena_guanzon)

A retired poll commissioner stressed her freedom of expression amid reports of election tarpaulin removals in private properties.

Former Commission on Elections Commissioner Rowena Guanzon on Thursday shared a picture of her in a billboard endorsing the P3PWD or the Komunidad ng Pamilya, Pasyente at Persons With Disabilities party-list for the 2022 national elections.

“I am not a candidate. This is my freedom of expression,” she wrote as a caption.

In another tweet, Guanzon said that the billboard is mounted “on private property” and is “not paid” by the party-list.

She added that it is also not covered by the Fair Elections Act and the “size 2×3 rule of @COMELEC,” citing the 2015 case of the Diocese of Bacolod versus the Commission on Elections.

“Bayaran nila ako P100K kung baklasin nila ‘yan,” Guanzon added, tagging the Comelec’s Twitter account.

She shared her photos as Filipinos call out the poll body for removing campaign tarpaulins mounted on private properties under its “Oplan Baklas” campaign.

The initiative aimed to remove materials that do not fit the size regulations for printed campaign propaganda, which is 2 x 3 feet for cloth, paper or cardboard posters.

Comelec Resolution No. 10730 stated that posters and tarpaulins are allowed to be posted in authorized common poster areas in public spaces and in private properties with consent of owners.

ALSO READ: What’s allowed and not: Comelec spox reminds voters, candidates of poll campaign rules

In 2015, the Supreme Court voted in favor of the Diocese of Bacolod in relation to tarpaulin sizes.

The case between the diocese and Comelec involved two tarpaulins mounted in a private compound housing the San Sebastian Cathedral of Bacolod. Each had a size of 6 x 10 feet, beyond the standard size for printed materials.

The High Court voted in favor of the diocese and said that the poll body has “no legal basis to regulate expressions made by private citizens.”

“Petitioners are not candidates. Neither do they belong to any political party. COMELEC does not have the authority to regulate the enjoyment of the preferred right to freedom of expression exercised by a non-candidate in this case,” the decision reads.

It said that the poll body can only regulate the exercise of freedom of expression of franchise holders and candidates.

The size of the tarpaulins is also considered “protected” under the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

“Large tarpaulins, therefore, are not analogous to time and place. They are fundamentally part of expression protected under Article III, Section 4 of the Constitution,” the decision reads.

 READ: SC 2015 ruling on campaign tarps raised online amid complaints vs ‘Oplan Baklas’

Election lawyer Emil Marañon III also said before that the High Court’s decision “means that election propaganda made at the behest of non-candidates would no longer be covered by the size restrictions or by any existing regulations in Republic Act Number 9006.”

“To illustrate the practical impact of this new interpretation, non-candidates can now put up campaign propaganda as big as the billboards along Guadalupe Bridge or EDSA and contract unlimited TV, radio, and print ads, free from any form of regulation,” he wrote in a 2016 article.