Palace official gripes vs Comelec

A PALACE officials griped about Commission on Elections rules on electioneering in her Facebook account Thursday and claimed the poll body’s prohibition against politicking government officials is a violation of their freedom of speech.

“Just read the new Comelec implementing rules. Section 4 (e) is particularly alarming: The act of government officials of (Executive, Legislative, Judiciary, [Constitutional] Commissions, members of the Civil Service, in short ALL) expressing their personal opinion, view and preference for candidates on social media is now considered electioneering. Ergo election offense,” said Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte’s post on her Facebook account.

Abigail Valte
“Beginning February 9, if I tweet or post ‘Candidate Y is a douche bag’ then I may be prosecuted for an election offense,” said Valte, who is linked to the “Balay” faction in the Palace associated with Liberal Party presidential candidate Mar Roxas.

Valte, a lawyer, argued that Section 55 of the Administrative Code, which, in the hierarchy of laws, trumps the Comelec’s implementing rules.

“Nothing herein provided shall be understood to prevent any officer or employee from expressing his views on current political problems or issues, or from mentioning the names of his candidates for public office whom he supports,” Valte quoted the provision.

“As a result, [the rules constitute] censorship on all public servants. Effective prior restraint. Freedom of speech, anyone? When was Martial Law reinstituted? Isn’t it 2016 already?” Valte said.

For censorship to be allowed under the Constitution, there must be a clear and present danger of a substantive evil to public safety, public morals, public health or any other legitimate public interest, Valte said.

“Put another way, how will my posting of ‘I don’t like Candidate XY because his pigs live in an air-conditioned pen’ pose a clear and present danger to public safety? Public morals? Public health? Should it be considered a threat to public health if the blood pressure of Candidate XY rises because of my post?,” she said.

But Section 2(4), Article IX-B of the 1987 Constitution expressly prohibits civil service officers and employees from engaging in any electioneering or partisan political activity, except to vote.

Also, the provision Valte quoted actually specifies that “no officer or employee in the Civil Service including members of the Armed Forces, shall engage directly or indirectly in any partisan political activity or take part in any election except to vote nor shall he use his official authority or influence to coerce the political activity of any other person or body.”

Topics: Palace official gripes vs Comelec , Commission on Elections
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