By Ferdinand G. Patinio
MANILA (1-Mar-2013/) – An election lawyer has come to the rescue of the Diocese of Bacolod over the Team Patay, Team Buhay poster issue.
Lawyer Romulo Macalintal said that Commission on Elections (Comelec) cannot prevent the Church from putting up their huge tarpaulin since the Church is a private property.
“The church cannot be prevented by Comelec from putting up their huge tarpaulin of buhay and patay candidates even if oversized since the church is a private property,” he said.
He added, “It’s part of its religious freedom to disseminate its religious position and messages to its parishioners which the Comelec cannot prohibit by its rules on campaigning.”
Macalintal noted that church is not campaigning but merely reiterating and giving emphasis on church’s stand against the Reproductive Health (RH).
“There is no clear and present danger to the citizenry which could be the basis for the government to stop the church from what it is doing,” he said.
He added that the Comelec should instead concentrate more on educating the voters on the proper exercise of suffrage to vote based on qualification and prevent the election from becoming a popularity contest.
Asked if he will volunteer to be the lawyer of the church, he said he will not volunteer but will accept engagement if they will approach him.
He added that there is no election law that is being violated even as the tarpaulin is oversized.
“Yes kahit oversize no case because church is private property and huge traps are no clear and present danger to the citizens,” the lawyer added.
For his part, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said that he is not the one who is barring the posting of the controversial poster but the law.
“Hindi ako ang nagprohibit kundi ang batas, puede mo lang ilagay lawful. It is a campaign material no matter how you look at it. It is for and against kasi meron syang ‘buhay’,” he explained.
Brillantes added, “Ang nakalagay naman sa batas, you can put lawful propaganda materials in private, in your own house. If it’s not lawful you can’t put it even in your own house. The church is a private property – agree. That’s why you can put propaganda material there but it has to be lawful.”
The poster which is still posted at the San Sebastian Cathedral in Bacolod City, is said to be measuring 6 feet by 10 feet, which is over the size of the allowable measure of only 2 feet by 3 feet.
“Ayoko na palakihin, they have all the right to campaign, come out with any campaign propaganda they like provided that it is lawful. Meaning it is within the size, if it’s outside the size it is unlawful. Therefore, dapat nilang tanggalin”, he added.
However, Brillantes noted that they are studying a provision in the Omnibus Election Code that church cannot influence their parishioners.
Section 261. Prohibited Acts. – The following shall be guilty of an election offense:
(d) Coercion of subordinates. –
(1) Any public officer, or any officer of any public or private corporation or association, or any head, superior, or administrator of any religious organization, or any employer or land-owner who coerces or intimidates or compels, or in any manner influence, directly or indirectly, any of his subordinates or members or parishioners or employees or house helpers, tenants, overseers, farm helpers, tillers, or lease holders to aid, campaign or vote for or against any candidate or any aspirant for the nomination or selection of candidates. (PNA)