Why Celebrities Have the Right to Campaign for their political bets?
This (un)Fair Election Act simply means that the government would like to protect the people against their stupidity and idiocy!
A blog commenter asked whether a public employee and a private individual have equal rights and privileges with respect to election laws. Since I am defending media personalities’ and celebrities right to free speech and to campaign for candidates, this commenter asked why public employees are prohibited from exercising the same right. As for public employees, I have stated that they are prohibited from engaging in “political partisan activity” and electioneering.
In my previous blog article, I defended the right of media personalities and celebrities to free speech because in a “ free society, no one must be singled out by any law, edict or directive.” Thus I stated the following:
“In a true republican society, the standard of value is the individual. The right of an individual must not be lower in degree or extent than the right of a church or a group. We cannot demand the government to deprive other sectors (e.i. the media personalities) of their right to endorse or campaign for their candidates. This is the essence of individual rights and equality under the law, concepts that we borrowed from the Americans. What does this law mean? It means that the government would like to protect the people against their stupidity and idiocy! This law is funny and pathetic. If the government sought to ban “celebrity influence” by passing this Fair Election Act, then it must also prevent religions and organizations from endorsing candidates! Who’s more influential, Kris Aquino or the high priest of the Iglesia ni Cristo? Who’s more influential, Dolphy or the high priest of Ang Dating Daan or Cardinal Rosales?”
This commenter named Enrico Navea asked the following: “Since the 1987 Constitution “prohibits all government employees to campaign, directly or indirectly, for any political candidates, does that mean that government employees were deprived of their rights to freedom of expression and speech?”
The Constitution expressly prohibits civil service officers and employees from engaging in any electioneering or partisan political activity. Section 2(4), Article IX-B of the 1987 Constitution provides: “No officer or employee in the civil service shall engage, directly or indirectly, in any electioneering or partisan political activity.”
Since the Constitution also provides that suffrage “may be exercised by all citizens,” Section 2(4) of Article IX-B does not prohibit civil service officers and employees from voting. Thus, civil service officers and employees cannot engage in any electioneering or partisan political activity except to vote. This is clear from the second paragraph of Section 3(3), Article XVI of the 1987 Constitution, which provides: “No member of the military shall engage directly or indirectly in any partisan political activity, except to vote.”
Likewise, the Omnibus Election Code penalizes civil service officers and employees who engage in any partisan political activity except to vote. Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code states:
Section 261. Prohibited Acts. — The following shall be guilty of an election offense: Intervention of public officers and employees. — Any officer or employee in the civil service, except those holding political offices; any officer, employee, or member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, or any police force, special forces, home defense forces, barangay self-defense units and all other para-military units that now exist or which may hereafter be organized who, directly or indirectly, intervenes in any election campaign or engages in any partisan political activity, except to voter to preserve public order, if he is a peace officer.
Anyone who read my previous blogs would understand that I am defending the right to free speech of “civilian” celebrities and media personalities who are not employed by the government. The Constitutional prohibition of “civil service officers and employees from engaging in any electioneering or partisan political activity,” including members of the military, is reasonable and valid, because they work for the government and there would be conflict of interest if they engage in political partisan activities and electioneering. So the Constitution is clear, government employees are precluded or prohibited from engaging in two illegal activities: 1) political partisan activities, and 2) electioneering, as a matter of public policy.
Just imagine if members of the Armed Forces, say generals or colonels, were engaged in electioneering in support of a candidate running for gubernatorial post of a particular province. There are several reasons why the Constitution prohibits members of the military to engage in electioneering: First, because it is their job to maintain peace and order before, during, and after the election period; second, because of the nature of their job (just look at the Ampatuans who established a private army); third, to avoid conflict of interest, because if a politician wins the elections, he has to pay debt of gratitude by appointing the military official or any government employee who helped him win his post.
As for civil service officers and employees, they cannot engage in partisan political activities and electioneering because they work for the government. In a case decided by the Supreme Court (Eleazar Quinto, et al. v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 189698), the Court states, in obiter, Section 2 (4) of Article IX-B of the Constitution is “intended to keep the Civil Service free of the deleterious effects of political partisanship.” Political partisanship is the inevitable essence of a political office, elective positions included.
Public employees may still campaign for their candidates, but they should take a leave because of the nature of their job and the influence they might have on the voters.
However, the subject of my blog are media personalities and celebrities who are not government employees and who do not receive any monetary or financial benefits from the government. We must understand that in a Republican state, the Constitution is a limitation of the powers of the government and that its fundamental purpose is to protect the rights of individual citizens. Observe that the Constitution also limits the power and privileges of government employees and officials and not private individuals. The reason for this is because only the government has the right to use force, meaning it can use force against those who initiate its use to protect individual rights and national sovereignty.