SC junks shorter airtime for political ads

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014


SUPREME Court (SC) justices have permanently stopped the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from imposing shorter airtime for political advertisements, which boost recall of candidates and profits of broadcast companies during an election year.

The SC voted unanimously on Tuesday to strike down Section 9(a) of Comelec Resolution 9615 (as amended by Comelec Resolution 9631) unconstitutional.

Both resolutions eye to level the playing field among political candidates in the May 2013 midterm elections by limiting the total airtime a national candidate may buy for campaign ads to 120 minutes for television and 180 minutes for radio.

Local candidates, on the other hand, should not exceed 90 minutes for television and 60 minutes for radio.

But with the SC decision, the restriction will stay at per station.

In its decision, the high court cited the arbitrary manner by which Comelec changed the previous regulation from "per station" to "aggregate total" per candidate, violation of freedom of expression, speech and of the press, violation of the people's right to suffrage and lack of consultation.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said he will ask his colleagues in the seven-man poll body not to appeal the ruling as the chances of securing a reversal would be slim.

The SC meanwhile upheld the other provisions of the resolution because they did not impose an "unreasonable burden" on the broadcast industry.

The Court also found the right to reply provision, which directs media companies to publish or air the side of a person or political party linked to a certain issue, "reasonable."

Media firms ABS-CBN, GMA, TV5 and the Manila Broadcasting Company and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) questioned the resolutions a month before the polls.

The SC then issued a stay order on April 16 last year in favor of the petitions. (Sunnex)

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