MANILA - Poll lawyer Romulo Macalintal believes the Commission on Elections (Comelec) can require television stations to extend the “biopic” privilege to poor and neophyte candidates.
Macalintal said the “campaigning” done by other candidates, while aired even prior to the campaign period, should be given also to other candidates who don’t have enough mass media opportunities.
“If a candidate paid for the airing of his life story before the campaign period, then any other candidate may also ask the TV station for similar treatment provided he pays the same amount,” he said.
However, if the candidate makes no payment, the airing of his or her life story can be considered a donation. “Other bets may also demand from the TV station that similar time be donated to them.”
Macalintal took note of Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes’ earlier statement that “airing the episodes of the life story of a senatorial candidate is obviously campaigning.”
Brillantes also said then that the poll body can’t charge the candidate for premature campaigning because Section 13 of RA 9369, Automated Election Law (AEL), provides that “unlawful acts applicable to a candidate shall take effect only upon the start of the campaign period” which starts on February 12 for senatorial candidates and March 29 for local bets.
Macalintal stressed that the provision cited by Brillantes applies only to “unlawful acts or omissions.”
He said: “For all other intents or purposes, they should be treated as candidates like when incurring expenses ‘in connection with the election’ or deemed resigned upon the filing of [certificate of candidacy] in cases of government employees, because the definition of a ‘candidate’, as one who files a COC under Section 79 of the Omnibus Election Code, has not been changed by the AEL.”
Therefore, political advertisements such as the airing of the biopics should be included in the Statement of Electoral Contributions and Expenditures (SECE). He said these are all “expenses incurred in connection with the 2013 elections.”
“To rule otherwise will open the floodgates of circumventing the law on expenses of and contributions received by candidates for all they have to do is claim that these were incurred or received before the start of the campaign period, hence, will not report them anymore,” he said.
As a result, he also noted that the length of time of such TV episode may likewise be counted against the airtime allotted for a candidate.