MANILA -- Lakas-Kampi-CMD vice presidential bet and game show host Edu Manzano asked the poll body Friday to suspend its earlier resolution asking “personalities” endorsing 2010 candidates to go on leave.
Manzano, through his lawyer Romulo Macalintal, said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) ruling on political advertisements deprived his fellow celebrities of their career and source of livelihood.
“We are requesting this to the Comelec through Edu Manzano that what it says is discriminatory for artists to take a leave of absence,” said Macalintal Friday.
He insisted that there is no exact definition as to who exactly is covered by Section 6.6 of the Fair Elections Act.
Section 6 (6.6) of Republic Act (RA) 9006 states: “Any mass media columnist, commentator, announcer, reporter, on-air correspondent or personality who is a candidate for any elective public office or is a campaign volunteer for or employed or retained in any capacity by any candidate or political party shall be deemed resigned, if so required by their employer, or shall take a leave of absence from his/her work as such during the campaign period.”
“What about those other popular personalities? For example, a basketball player, a boxer, a bowler, an inventor or a popular businessman who endorses a candidate...It is very clear that there is discrimination,” said Macalintal.
Manzano, in his petition, also said the implementation of the rule would require him to break his existing contracts with movie and television personalities who he already asked for endorsement.
“The said rule would compel Mr. Manzano to cease honoring existing contracts with some movie or television stars he had already contracted to be his endorsers of his candidacy,” the petition cited.
Manzano’s petition was backed by Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard bearer Gilbert Teodoro Jr., whom the showbiz personality is running with.
For Teodoro, the provision in RA 9006 and the subsequent Comelec resolution asking media personalities campaigning for a politician to go on leave is "questionable".
"I think it is something that should be questioned and revisited because, whether the person is doing it for free or not, imposing this regulation means depriving a person of his right to express or show support for a candidate," said lawyer Mike Toledo, spokesman of Teodoro.
He said the provision is a "constitutional issue" that can be raised later before the courts.
In response, Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said they will discuss the constitutional questions raised by Macalintal in its en banc session on Monday or Tuesday.
“The letter raises serious constitutional questions...If it is fit that we would change the resolution, it is within the powers of Comelec,” noted Sarmiento.
He also shared the same sentiment with Macalintal that the word “personality” is not clearly described in the law.
But in Sarmiento’s opinion, while there is no clear definition or interpretation on the law yet, celebrities should refrain from making endorsements.
“I would suggest to our personalities to refrain from making any comments or endorsements. They can appear without mentioning any candidate,” said the commissioner.
Comelec's law department director Ferdinand Rafanan earlier said the law orders showbiz personalities to go on leave during the campaign period if he or she will participate as an endorser.
“If he or she is a campaigner or part of the campaign staff or volunteer of a candidate, he or she should resign or go on leave,” said Rafanan.
Celebrities who will not resign or go on leave may face an election offense of imprisonment of one to six years and might be deprived of their right of suffrage.
Among those celebrities who have already endorsed politicians are Vilma Santos, Kris Aquino, Boy Abunda, Ai-Ai delas Alas, Dingdong Dantes, Marian Rivera, Ogie Alcasid, Regine Velasquez, Bea Alonzo, and Anne Curtis for Liberal Party standard bearer Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.
Nacionalista Party presidential bet Manny Villar is endorsed by comedy king Dolphy, Willie Revillame, Sarah Geronimo, boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, and Kapuso matinee idol Richard Gutierrez.
This provision of RA 9006 will take effect Saturday under Section 36 of Comelec Resolution 8758.
Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, however, said the Comelec en banc plans to come out with guidelines regarding the issue. (Kathrina Alvarez/With PNA/Sunnex)