MANILA, Philippines – Poll chief Sixto Brillantes on Friday stood by the Commission on Elections’ decision to limit airtime for political advertisements during the official campaign period of the May 2013 elections.
This is after the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas wrote the Comelec to protest the new rules.
Brillantes confirmed receiving a letter from KBP but noted that broadcasters have a vested interest in reversing the cut on airtime limits.
"KBP naman, in a sense, may self-interest yan eh. Hanapbuhay sa kanila yan including the big networks, hanapbuhay for everybody. There is a clear advantage, only a moneyed candidate can afford to go on a per network [basis],” he said.
Brillantes reiterated that candidates risk disqualification and an election offense should they go beyond spending and airtime limits.
He admitted though that the spending limits are already not realistic. He said that if the spending limits are to be amended by law, then the time limits should also be amended.
"Hindi na [realistic]. Even if we say per network we’ll be very strict in implementation of P3,” he said.
Premature campaign abused
The Comelec chief said that because of the poll automation law, candidates have abused the time before the elections because premature campaigning has been abolished as an offense.
"Everybody took advantage of this only because of absence of any penalty of premature campaigning. Siguro na-consume na nila kung bibilanganin na nila," he said.
He said the poll body will start monitoring at the start of the campaign period.
Brillantes said monitoring would be easier for the Comelec had the airtime limit been imposed on a per network basis.
He said Resolution 9615 merely reverted to the rules in the 2001 elections, noting this was the legislative intent of the law when it was passed by Congress.
Brillantes pointed out that the aggregate time of 120 minutes for TV and 180 minutes for radio for national candidates and 60 minutes for TV and 90 minutes for radio for local candidates is in relation to the P3 per voter limit of the law on election spending.
The Comelec is checking the commercial airtime rates of networks.
Brillantes said political parties are allowed to spend P5 per voter for all their candidates.
He explained that their rules level the playing field among candidates since very few can afford expensive airtime rates.
He said that if one minute of advertising airtime is 1 million pesos, then a candidate would have spent P120 million to consume his airtime limit.
With 52 million voters, that just leaves little room for other expenses since the spending limit would be at around P150 million.
"Pag inubos mo iyon on TV advertising alone, P120 million. If limitation is P156 million, that's P156 million naiiwan sa ‘yo is P30 million. That's what you’ll spend for next 90 days? Kulang na yun,” he said.
Brillantes pointed out that a majority of the candidates prefer their new rule since it will save them money.
Meantime, Brillantes also said broadcasters will have to get the permission of the Comelec before guesting candidates on their shows. This is also part of resolution 9615.
"Appearance or guesting by a candidate on any bona fide newscast, bona fide news interview, bona fide news documentary, if the appearance of the candidate is incidental to the presentation of the subject or subjects covered by the news documentary, or on-the-spot coverage of bona fide news events, including but not limited to events sanctioned by the Commission on Elections, political conventions, and similar activities, shall not be deemed to be broadcast election propaganda within the meaning of this provision. To determine whether the appearance or guesting in a program is bona fide, the broadcast stations or entities must show that: (1) prior approval of the Commission was secured; and (2) candidates and parties were afforded equal opportunities to promote their candidacy. Nothing in the foregoing sentence shall be construed as relieving broadcasters, in connection with the presentation of newscasts, news interviews, news documentaries, and on-the-spot coverage of news events, from the obligation imposed upon them under Sections 10 and 14 of these Rules."
Brillantes said they merely wanted to ensure fairness in adopting this rule. "For monitoring purposes because guesting can be abused as a form of campaigning. Kung ikaw lang guest, we can treat it as part of propaganda if you're the only one who's being guested …"
Brillantes noted that in local radio stations, sometimes only one candidate is invited as a guest and all commentaries favor just one candidate.