The removal of election materials in privately owned areas by the Commission on Elections has been put on hold following the issuance of a Supreme Court temporary restraining order based on the petition of supporters of Vice President Leni Robredo to temporarily stop the implementation of parts of Resolution No. 10730.
The TRO was issued against a part of the resolution connected to Comelec’s “order to dismantle, remove, destroy, deface and/or confiscate all election materials that are privately owned and private funded solely by volunteers and private citizens and posted and/or installed within their private properties.”
Specifically, the TRO was issued to enjoin the poll body from implementing Sections 21, 24 and 27 of its Resolution No. 10730.
The petitioners argued that the Comelec resolution is unconstitutional “for being a direct violation of the people’s constitutional rights to freedom of expression, due process of law, equal protection clause and property.” They also said the Comelec violated their right to freedom of speech and expression as they asserted that tarpaulins and posters procured at their own expense are their political expressions of support for their chosen candidates.
TRO or none, the Comelec already has a lot on its plate as far as the proliferation of campaign materials in public spaces is concerned. Utility poles, trees and waiting sheds all over the country are plastered with tarpaulins that are supposed to be posted only on common poster areas.
Knowing where public property ends and private property begins shouldn’t difficult for Comelec personnel who are thankfully ready and raring to do their job of removing illegal and misplaced campaign materials, so the TRO shouldn’t hamper their efforts to make the campaign period as fair as possible, without infringing on individual rights, private property and the constitution.
We wish the Comelec’s “Operation Baklas” the best of luck as it tries to keep our communities and public spaces free of illegal and unsightly campaign materials while at the same time respecting the rights of private individuals and property owners to legally express support for their chosen candidates using the resources they have available.*