For the 2025 elections

MANILA-Individuals intending to run in next year’s elections, take heed: the moment they file their certificates of candidacy, they will be considered official candidates for the positions they seek.

This prevents them from circumventing the law and evading penalties for prohibited acts such as vote-buying prior to the campaign period, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman George Garcia emphasized this during his talk on Tuesday at the 3rd National Conference on Investigative Journalism held at Novotel, Manila.

“I’d like to announce that in the upcoming elections, we will presume all those who file their candidacies from October 1 to 8 as candidates already, and therefore, we will apply premature campaigning,” he stated during the gathering attended by journalists from across the country.

“Now, if we are wrong, so be it. Then we will just follow the Supreme Court. The important thing is that we attempted to enforce the policy that we desire,” he continued, anticipating potential legal challenges to this proposed policy by the electoral body.

Currently, a person who files their certificate of candidacy is only recognized as a candidate at the start of the campaign period.

Unlawful acts applicable to a candidate would only take effect at the start of the campaign period.

In 2009, the Supreme Court (SC) affirmed this provision in the case of Peñera vs. Comelec, which led to the removal of premature campaigning as an election offense.

“Imagine, from October, November, December, and January, Comelec is powerless. We cannot apprehend. We cannot remove posters. We cannot file because there are no candidates yet,” Garcia lamented.

According to Comelec rules, the campaign period for those seeking national posts is 90 days and 45 days for those seeking local posts.

“Think about it, even before they officially become candidates, they are already campaigning. They are already giving away things, their faces are already plastered all over the streets,” Garcia remarked. “And hopefully, what’s important is to see prosecution and conviction,” he added.

Garcia urged early support from the public for this planned policy, asserting that it would contribute to fair and credible elections.

“Our fellow citizens supported us in the barangay and SK elections, which made the candidates behave. There are still stubborn ones, but generally, the elections went smoothly,” the Comelec chairman said.

Lawyer Rona Ona, executive director of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections, voiced her support for the initiative saying this could effectively address vote-buying which has marred the country’s elections in the past.

“It’s about time that the Comelec will do something about it. If its challenge before the Supreme Court, so be it. At least may strong positioning si Comelec na hindi pwede ang candidates taking advantage of the loopholes we have right now under the law and the Penera doctrine,” she said.

The country is set to conduct a general elections on 2025.