Introduction to Election Offenses

Election Offenses,Primers April 6, 2013 5:00 PM

What are the election laws that provide for election offenses?

The following are the laws and their respective sections which provide for election offenses:

What offenses are punishable in the Philippines?

Only those which are expressly made punishable with penalties as provided by law can be considered as offenses. The so-called common law crimes, which are the body of principles, usages and rules of action, which do not rest for their authority upon any express and positive declaration of the will of the legislature are not recognized in this country. Unless there be a provision in the penal code or the special penal law that defines and punishes the act, even if it be socially or morally wrong, no criminal liability shall be incurred by its commission. 2

What is the basis of the power to define and punish crimes?

The authority to define and punish crimes and to lay down the rules of criminal procedure lies in the state’s police power. The State has large measure of discretion in creating and defining criminal offenses. 3

What are the limitations of the power of the lawmaking body to enact penal legislations?

The Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution provides the following limitations:

  • No ex post facto law or bill of attainder shall be enacted (Article III, Section 22). This prohibits the passage of retroactive laws which are prejudicial to the accused. A bill of attainder is a legislative act which inflicts punishment without trial

  • No person shall be held to answer for criminal offense without due process of law (Article III, Section 14 4

  • The law must be general in application (Article III, Section 1)

  • The law should not impose the cruel and unusual punishment or excessive fines (Article III, Section 25 5

How should penal laws be constructed or interpreted?

Penal laws are strictly construed against the Government and liberally in favor of the accused. 6 However, this rule may be invoked only where the law is ambiguous and there is doubt as to its interpretation. Where the law is clear and unambiguous, there is no room for the application of this rule. 7

Who has the power to prosecute election offenses?

Prior to R.A. No. 9369, the law vested the power to prosecute election offenses exclusively to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). 8 However, Sec. 43 of R.A. No. 9369 expressly amended Sec. 265 of the Omnibus Election Code. It states that “the Commission shall, through its duly authorized legal officers, have the exclusive power to conduct preliminary investigation of all election offenses punishable under this Code, and to prosecute the same.”

Can a citizen or public officer make warrantless arrest in connection with an offense relating to election campaign?

No. No person shall be arrested and/or detained at any time for any alleged offense committed during and in connection with any election through any act or language tending to support or oppose any candidate, political party or coalition of political parties under or pursuant to any order of whatever name or nature and by whomsoever issued except upon a warrant of arrest issued by a competent judge after all the requirements of the Constitution shall have been strictly complied with. 9

What are the consequences of violating the requirement of an arrest warrant in connection with election campaign?

Any officer or person who violated this requirement shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than six (6) years and one (1) day nor more than twelve (12) years, with accessory penalties for election offenses. The provision of Sec. 267 of this Code (on prescription) shall not apply to prosecution under this section. 10

What is the prescriptive period for the prosecution of election offenses?

Election offenses shall prescribe after five years after the date of their commission. If the discovery of the offense be made in an election contest proceedings, the period of prescription shall commence on the date on which the judgment of such proceedings becomes final and executory. 11

Who has jurisdiction to try and decide election offense?

The Regional Trial Court shall have the exclusive original jurisdiction to try and decide any criminal action or proceedings for the violation of the Omnibus Election Code. From this decision of the courts, appeal will lie as in other criminal cases. 12

What is the rule on the preferential disposition of election offenses?

The investigation and prosecution of cases involving violations of the election laws shall be given preference by the Commission on Elections and prosecuting officials. Their investigation shall be commenced without delay, and shall be resolved by the investigating officer within five days from its submission for resolution. The courts shall likewise give preference to election offenses over all other cases, except petitions for writ of habeas corpus. Their trial shall likewise be commenced without delay, and shall be conducted continuously until terminated, and the case shall be decided within thirty days from its submission for decision. 13

What is the required pardon, amnesty, parole or suspension of sentence for violation of election laws, rules and regulations may be granted by the President?

There must be a favorable recommendation first by the COMELEC. Sec.5 of Art. XI-C of the Constitution provides that “no pardon, amnesty, parole or suspension of sentence for violation of election laws, rules and regulations may be granted by the President without the favorable recommendation of the Commission.”

Notes:

  1.  The following are the express repeals or amendments of the Sections listed under Section 262 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 as “other election offenses:” Section 85 was expressly repealed by Section 14 of Republic Act No. 9006; Inclusions of Sections 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112 were also expressly repealed by Section 39 of Republic Act No. 7166; Section 206 was expressly amended by Section 35 of Republic Act No. 9369; Section 210 was expressly amended by Section 25 of Republic Act No. 7166 and Section 31 of Republic Act No. 9369 was expressly amended by Section 32 of Republic Act No. 9369
  2. Luis B. Reyes, The Revised Penal Code 1 (2006), citing U.S. v. Taylor, 28 Phil. 599
  3. Id. At 2, citing People v. Santiago, 43 Phil 120
  4. 4 Id. At 2-3
  5. Antonio L. Gregorio, Fundamentals of Criminal Law Review 2 (2008)
  6. Reyes, supra note 1, at 17, citing U.S. v. Abad, 36 Phil. 243; People v. Yu Hai, 99 Phil. 728
  7. 7 Id. People v. Gatchalian, 104 Phil. 664
  8. Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines, Batas Pambansa Blg. 881, Sec. 265 (1985)
  9. Id. Sec. 266
  10. Id.
  11. Id. Section 267
  12. Id. Section 268
  13. Id. Section 269

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