In a Rappler article titled “Duterte's rape joke: Can diplomats comment on election-related issues?”, election lawyer Emil Marañon III wrote that while presidential candidate, Davao city Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s rape joke was inarguably inappropriate, the latter was correct in lambasting the ambassadors of Australia and the United States for commenting on the issue.
Marañon started his argument by citing Section 81 of the Omnibus Election Code, which outlines three acts that constitute as unlawful intervention of foreigners:
I. The aiding of any candidate or political party, directly or indirectly
II. Taking part or influencing in any manner any election
III. Contributing or making any expenditure in connection with any election campaign or partisan political activity
He further argues that there is unlawful intervention on two grounds: first, there is direct or indirect aiding; and second, there is influencing in any manner any election.
He substantiated his claim that there is direct or indirect aiding by saying that: “the ambassadors' views that are critical of Duterte’s ‘rape joke’ can be interpreted as ‘aiding’ his rival candidates, as they stand to directly benefit from any bad press the tough-talking mayor gets.” Marañon notes that even if the benefit to the concerned candidate is merely residual, it is still unlawful because the law qualified the word “aiding” with “directly or indirectly” to cover those indirect means of aiding candidates.
Secondly, he notes that there is influencing in any manner any election because the law is broad and it encompasses those acts or statements which tend to influence voters, even though remotely.
Marañon‘s legal opinion however, while celebrated by Duterte supporters, was criticized by some netizens. To rebut Marañon‘s legal opinion, Jayvee Salud, also an election lawyer who used to work for the Commission on Elections took to Facebook his disagreement on the matter.
Salud concludes that the diplomats' remarks were lawful. While his last argument was not legal, it has a persuasive rhetorical value.
The mayor drew condemnation fro the Australian and US ambassadors for treating as a joke the rape of Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill. “I was angry she was raped, yes that was one thing. But she was so beautiful, I think the mayor should have been first,” he said during a campaign rally last week.
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