A SENATORIAL candidate has asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to punish a major TV network, saying it violated his right to equal access to media time and space by refusing to air his campaign advertisement.

In a press conference yesterday, former Cebu governor Emilio “Lito” Osmeña said he recently filed a case against ABS-CBN after the broadcasting giant refused to air the 30-second campaign ad he had paid for.

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Tagalog version

“I’m flabbergasted,” said Osmeña.

Osmeña told reporters that ABS-CBN’s head office in Manila refused to air his ad during a particular time slot in the network’s Cebu-based regional station, allegedly because the ad is in Cebuano. He was told to provide a Tagalog version first.

Officials of ABS-CBN Central Visayas, when sought for comment, said they are waiting for the official reply from their central office.

Osmeña said he considers ABS-CBN’s requirement for all political advertisements to be delivered in Tagalog “discriminatory” to Cebuano-speaking Filipinos.

“Upon hearing this, I was completely shocked and dumbfounded,” said the former governor, who also ran for president in 1998.

Capitol consultant Rory Jon Sepulveda, one of Osmeña’s lawyers, told reporters that despite paying the TV network P95,600 for airtime, ABS-CBN refused to air the Cebuano ad.

Central Visayas voters

The advertisement contains scenes that refer to Cebu’s progress, like the Marcelo Fernan Bridge, different businesses and the Mactan Cebu International Airport.

Towards the end of the ad, Osmeña says, “Nahimo na nato sa Cebu, himuon sad nato sa ubang probinsya (What we accomplished in Cebu, we can do in the other provinces).”

Sepulveda said Cebuano was used because the ad was aimed at voters in Central Visayas.

He added that Osmeña wants to start his campaign sorties in Central Visayas, where most of the voters may recognize him and perhaps even vote for him.

Sepulveda said the Osmeña camp hopes once the ads come out, these will erase any doubts on the former governor’s seriousness in launching a national campaign. The Comelec at first disqualified Osmeña, saying it doubted his capability to mount a national campaign, but later reconsidered its ruling.

Case

Sepulveda added that Osmeña cannot accept ABS-CBN’s “flimsy” reason because his staff specified that the advertisement was aimed at Cebuano-speaking voters in Central Visayas.

“Here in Cebu, we’re trying to raise the point that discrimination should not be the reason for a political candidate to have no equal access to media time and space, as recognized by election laws,” said Sepulveda.

Through Sepulveda and Manila-based lawyer Melanio Mauricio, Osmeña filed a case against ABS-CBN for allegedly violating Republic Act 9006 or the Fair Elections Act, in the Comelec office in Manila last Tuesday.

Osmeña said he had hoped that his campaign ad would be aired before Feb. 9, before he formally kicked off his campaign sorties.

He recalled that after receiving the rates for political ads, he paid for the airtime with P95,060, good for seven days. He wanted the ad aired during ABS-CBN Cebu’s news program “TV Patrol Central Visayas,” which airs from 5:30 to 6 p.m.

But on Feb. 10, Osmeña’s advertisement was not aired, contrary to their agreement.

An employee of ABS-CBN Cebu reportedly called up one of Osmeña’s staff and explained that the material could not be aired unless a Tagalog version of the ad could be reviewed.

Osmeña is running under Promdi, the party he formed when he ran for president during the 1998 elections but lost to Joseph Estrada. (JKV)