THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Friday, March 3, 2023, that it is ready to apply the “full force of the law” against would-be candidates in the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) who will engage in premature campaigning.

In an interview with reporters, Comelec Chairman George Garcia said the poll body is fully determined to hold accountable those who will engage in premature campaigning, as it will be prohibited from July 8 to October 18.

“We will charge you and will surely disqualify you since you have already filed your Certificate of Candidacy (COC) and is engaging in premature campaigning, which is prohibited,” said Garcia.

“Once you file your COC, you are already considered as a candidate. Therefore, we will apply the full force of the law, Section 18 of the Omnibus Election Code. You cannot go around, campaign, distribute things since you are already a candidate,” he added.

The poll chief said this is where the early filing of the COC will be beneficial since they can be held accountable for premature campaigning.

“This would be better as they have already filed their COC and are considered as candidates. Therefore, we can already file cases against them. We will disqualify you and file election offense cases against you,” he noted.

“(This is better) compared to those who are not considered candidates, go to different areas, distribute items, put up tarpaulins, and then eventually file their candidacy. We cannot run after them since they are not yet considered candidates then,” Garcia added.

Earlier, the Comelec set the COC filing period from July 3 to 7, while the campaign period for the BSKE will run from October 19 to 28.

This means that from July 8 to October 18, campaigning activities will be strictly prohibited among barangay and SK candidates.

On Thursday, March 2, ParaƱaque City Second District Representative Gus Tambunting expressed opposition to the early filing period for COCs, saying the Comelec should just stick to the usual schedule of COC filing, which is right before the campaign period.

According to Tambunting, the implementation of a ban on premature campaigning is unrealistic and challenging for the Comelec given the number of barangays and candidates involved.

Garcia immediately responded by saying the commission is inclined to retain the early filing period for COCs. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)