Airtime limit to level playing field – Comelec

By Jon Carlos Rodriguez,

Posted at Jan 18 2013 10:02 PM | Updated as of Jan 19 2013 06:02 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesperson James Jimenez on Friday said shorter airtime limits on political advertisements on TV and radio aims to "level the playing field" among candidates.

Jimenez said Comelec has been more liberal on the rules on airtime limits in the previous elections, but the outcome revealed that it “unbalanced the playing field.”

“Since it is in the power of the Comelec to enforce the law, we felt that setting the limit to a lower level would be beneficial to all concerned. Certainly, it would be something that persons with more money would probably balk at but in the end this is not about them, this is about all of the candidates,” Jimenez told ANC’s “Prime Time”.

In past elections, national candidates were also given a limit of 120 minutes for their campaign but on a per network basis.

In Comelec’s Resolution 9615, national candidates will be allowed an aggregate total of 120 minutes of TV airtime and 180 minutes of radio airtime.

“It’s about the ability of the candidates to access public space. If you have a situation wherein 120 minutes is available to every station for every candidate, then every candidate will go full blast on ads. But those who don’t have that capability would not, so the voters will not see them. This is about leveling the playing field at the end of the day,” explained Jimenez.

The new resolution, however, received mixed reactions from several candidates.

Senatorial bet Cynthia Villar, the wife of incumbent Senator Manny Villar, said the limit is disadvantageous to those not exposed to the public in a regular basis compared to other prominent personalities.

The president of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), Rupert Nicdao, echoed Villar’s sentiments.

“We understand the Comelec is trying to level the playing field but maybe the field is not going to be level at all because what will happen is that the popular candidates will definitely have a much bigger advantage…The up and coming, who may have good intentions and a good platform, probably will suffer tremendously,” Nicdao told ANC on Friday.

TV guestings

Under the resolution, broadcasters are also required to get the approval of the Comelec before candidates will be allowed to guest on TV shows.

“We want to make sure that when candidates appear in the guise of news subject, that it be bona fide and not using a newsy atmosphere as cover for campaigning,” said Jimenez.

“It’s not really preventing them from appearing on the show, it’s really more about saying that when you do go on that show it will take a toll on your minutes,” he added.

Nicdao, however, disagrees with the provision on TV guesting.

He said the provision “threads on the issue of freedom of expression.”

“There could be certain instances where a very important news item comes about and a candidate is [the resource person], does it mean we have to first go to the Comelec and [ask permission] to interview the person? As we all know, news is all about timing. By the time we get Comelec approval, if ever we get Comelec approval, may be the issue has become moot and academic,” said Nicdao.

He said the KBP is set to file a motion for reconsideration before Comelec in relation to the resolution.