At a press conference on Friday, lawyer Esmeralda Amora-Ladra, head of the Comelec law department, said they sent notices to administration senatorial bet Risa Hontiveros and independent candidate Edward Hagedorn.
The notice for Hontiveros, who was found to have illegal campaign posters in Dumaguete City in Negros Occidental, was received on February 20 while the notice for Hagedorn, who allegedly has an illegal poster in Osmeña Highway in Manila, was received on February 21.
In a text message to GMA News Online, Hontiveros said her team on the ground is in the process of locating the poster and verifying that it has been posted improperly.
“This is complicated by the fact that the specific location of the poster was not indicated in the Comelec notice. Rest assured that once it has been located, it will be removed without delay,” she said.
Nardz Villafranca, Hagedorn’s acting campaign manager, said they “will comply by the order of the Comelec to remove immediately the campaign material.”
“I already ordered sa mga tao na tanggalin na yung material,” he told GMA News in a phone interview.
Villafranca said he had already talked with their lawyer and that they “will send letter of explanation with compliance to the law department of the Comelec.”
Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (Buhay) party-list received three notices on February 19 and 20 for their illegal campaign posters in three different locations, while Kabataan and LPG Marketers Association (LPGMA) both received two notices each on February 19, according to Ladra.
Pwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) and 1 Joint Alliance of Marginalized Group Inc. (1JAMg) received their respective notices on February 20. Piston Land Transportation Coalition, Inc received its notice on February 19.
Ladra said the candidates and party-list groups have three days upon receipt of the notice to act on it. She said so far, only Buhay has sent a letter of reply telling them that they did not put the illegal poster but will nevertheless remove it.
She said if the candidates fail to remove the illegal campaign poster, the Comelec will be the one to remove it but at the expense of the candidate, in addition to the charges that will be filed against them.
Failure to remove illegal campaign propaganda constitutes an election offense that is punishable under Section 264 of the Omnibus Election Code. The provision states that any person found guilty of any election offense shall be punished with imprisonment from one to six years and shall not be subject to probation.
“In addition, the guilty party shall be sentenced to suffer disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage,” the provision further states.
While, Section 6 of Republic Act 7941 (Partylist System Act) states that “the Comelec may may motu proprio or upon verified complaint of any interested party, remove or cancel, after due notice and hearing, the registration of any national, regional or sectoral party, organization or coalition” that “violates or fails to comply with laws, rules or regulations relating to elections,” among other grounds.
Ladra reminded the candidates that the notice states that all illegal campaign posters should be removed and not only on the place reported to the Comelec.
“Sinasabi natin na even in other areas in the country, you have to cause the removal of the posters. Ang napapansin natin kasi if we specify ‘yung isang location, ililipat lang nila yung campaign material nila sa another location,” she said. — KBK, GMA News