Comelec to soften up on airtime limits?

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 29 2013 03:56 PM | Updated as of Jan 29 2013 11:56 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections may soften up on the aggregate airtime limits for broadcast political advertisements during the official campaign period for the mid-term elections.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the poll body already reconsidered the provision requiring prior consent from Comelec before candidates can be interviewed by the media. He said this is a sign that the poll body is keeping an open mind about the campaign rules.

"The beauty of it all is that we're open to suggestions and comments. The fact that prior consent has been changed is a sign that Comelec is open to suggestions, comments and reactions from our media friends,” he said.

The Comelec will hold a public hearing on Thursday morning to tackle the separate letter-appeals of the Kapisanan ng mga Broadcaster sa Pilipinas and GMA Network over the aggregate airtime limits, prior consent requirement and right of reply.

The media groups said the prior consent requirement is a form of prior restraint on the media which is banned by the 1987 Constitution.

Sarmiento said the poll body is looking at all arguments with regards to the aggregate airtime limits 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.

"You have to consider that from 2000 to 2010 elections the Commission on Elections was not consistent on airtime limitations. There was a time collective aggregate. There were times it was 120-180 minutes per station. There are those in the en banc for the retention of (the) airtime limit but you've got to be pragmatic. That's not enough for candidates. There's openness on the part of the Comelec,” he said.

Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. earlier revealed that Comelec will issue an amendment clarifying the requirement on prior consent to mean a mere prior notice on the part of candidates and media to the Comelec.

"We made it more liberal by saying it means prior notice….on the spot interviews… so long as were informed after, that will suffice,” he said.

Aside from airtime limits and the prior consent requirement, the Comelec will also tackle arguments regarding the right of reply provision.

Sarmiento expects a decision on the appeals of the media to be known soon after the hearing on Thursday.

Sarmiento and Armando Velasco are ending their 7-year terms on Saturday.