Comelec tells critics of limited airtime: Go to SC

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 22 2013 02:51 PM | Updated as of Jan 22 2013 10:52 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is standing pat on its aggregate airtime limits for political advertisements during the official midterm election campaign period, telling critics to go straight to the Supreme Court.

"Consensus naming di magbabago unless the Supreme Court tells us otherwise. Dumiretso na sila sa SC. Finish it up. We're closing in sa February 12 campaign. We will implement unless SC says mali iyan," Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said.

Brillantes explained Resolution 9615 is a resolution promulgated by the commission en banc. As such, any appeal is considered a prohibited pleading.

"Mag-MR (motion for reconsideration) sila, sinasabi ko na sa [Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas], resolution ito ng en banc. Generally, we don't recognize an MR [since it is a] prohibited pleading,” he said.

Brillantes also said he could not understand why KBP is taking up the cudgels for the politicians. He said the candidates should be at the forefront of questioning the policy.

Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, a critic of Brillantes, earlier revealed plans to elevate the matter of the airtime limits to the Supreme Court. “He should go up (to the SC) instead of an MR here. Sumabay na sana ang KBP."

He, however, pointed out that many of the candidates in the election support the Comelec's aggregate airtime limits, which reversed the rules in the 2004, 2007 and 2010 elections. Previously, the airtime limits were computed on a per network basis.

Brillantes argued that if the poll body allows a computation on a per network basis, candidates will definitely exceed the spending limits imposed by the election laws.

"That's precisely the purpose so we can regulate airtime. May limit sa gastos na P3 pesos per voter. Paano malaman kung hindi hihingiin ang kontrata, sigurado over sila."

Massive advertising in 2010 - Brillantes

The Comelec chairman said there was massive advertising in the 2010 elections. "Tingin namin, masyadong saturated propaganda nung 2010 and previous elections."

He refuted the KBP’s arguments that candidates must be given enough time to make their case before voters.

“Sobra sobra na yun bawat isa 120 minutes [television], 180 minutes sa radio. May party pa sila pagdating ng local, sabay sabay na yan may 60 and 90 sa local."

Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, for his part, reiterated a previous proposal to have the Comelec buy airtime for all candidates to share.

"A total limit of 120 minutes for TV and 180 minutes for radio nationwide is proper but really small, considering the three-month campaign and the big number of TV and radio stations in the country. Thus, it is incumbent upon COMELEC to fill in the vacuum by buying enough airtime for equitable distribution to all candidates. This is part of Comelec 's duty to provide voters with proper information on the candidates so they can vote wisely."

Brillantes said he favors that proposal, but also expressed reservations.

He also dismissed claims that the new policy will cause smaller networks and stations to lose revenues. "Lahat naman malulugi. Nasanay sila for the last 3 elections.”

He explained the old rules were borne out of a different interpretation of the previous members of the poll body, noting the law itself isn't clear on whether airtime limits should be computed on an aggregate basis or not. The KBP earlier indicated that they might file their MR on Wednesday.