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Government has no jurisdiction to ban OFWs protests at Host’s Philippine Embassy

Philippine embassy

welcome By: Elena Grace Flores
On the noise created by Filipinos overseas at their respective Philippine embassy, they can go on. The Comelec says it cannot ban campaigning outside Philippine embassies. It’s  because that’s already beyond Philippine territory
MANILA, Philippines – Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) can continue campaigning in their host countries except in places such as Philippine embassies. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) confirmed following a Supreme Court issued a ruling on this.

Comelec’s stand

Comelec Commissioner Arthur Lim on Wednesday, April 20, said this has been the poll body’s long-standing rule. It has been observed that issues locally that divide the nation are being protested by Filipinos abroad. This include Marcos’s burial at the Heroes cemetery, alleged extra judicial killings by Duterte’s administration on his war on drugs plus many more.

Lim, the commissioner in charge of overseas voting, said there’s no debate about it. He explained that the Comelec cannot ban campaigning outside Philippine embassies because that’s already beyond Philippine territory.

No jurisdiction overseas

In the market of Riyadh, what authority does Comelec have in the market of Riyadh? None. What the Comelec bans is campaigning inside our embassies, consulates, or voting centers where the election is actually taking place, like the Bayanihan Center in Hong Kong.

The SC on Wednesday, April 20, temporarily stopped the Comelec from implementing provisions of the law that ban campaigning abroad.

Supreme Court Ruling

One of these is Section 36.8 of Republic Act (RA) 9189, as amended by Republic Act 10590, declaring it unlawful “for any person to engage in partisan political activity abroad during the 30-day overseas voting period.”

‘Unconstitutional prohibition,’ petitioner says

In a media briefing on Wednesday, SC spokesman Theodore Te said the High Court “issued a temporary restraining order effective immediately enjoining the Comelec,” among others, from implementing Section 36.8 of RA 9189 and certain provisions of Comelec Resolution 10035.”

The SC said the TRO, however, does not apply “within Philippine embassies, consulates, and other posts where overseas voters may exercise their right to vote pursuant to the Overseas Absentee Voting System, where partisan political activities shall still be prohibited until further orders from the Court.”

The SC then required the Comelec to comment on the petition “within a non-extendible period of 5 days” upon receipt of the official notice.

The SC issued the TRO after businesswoman Loida Nicolas Lewis, head of the group US Pinoys for Good Governance, filed a case against what her group called “the unconstitutional prohibition on political campaigning abroad during the election period.”

Lewis, who is campaigning for presidential bet Manuel “Mar” Roxas II and his running mate, Leni Robredo, said the TRO from the SC is “a big win for Filipinos overseas.”

The Comelec has urged 1.38 million overseas voters to cast their ballots during the 30-day overseas voting period, running from April 9 to May 9, which is election day in the Philippines.

The following are expected as Filipinos overseas are favored by the TRO:

  • more protests
  • overseas Filipino groups are joining forces
  • OFWs serve as the voice for the silent majority
  • aggressive government attacks trough channels abroad
  • divides the nation further

The development is definitely good for the preservation of human rights. It does not mean however that it will result fear. Instead the opposite. So, Filipinos must be ready.


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