BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) stopped yesterday the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from implementing caps on radio and television ads of candidates in the May 13 polls.
SC spokesman Theodore Te said the high court issued a status quo ante (SQA) order on the poll body’s rule giving national candidates a total of 120 minutes on all TV networks and 180 minutes on radio stations, with local candidates allotted 60 minutes on TV and 90 minutes on radio.
However, he refused to discuss the specific implication of the ruling and how long the halt order will be in effect, citing “limited information” given to him by the justices.
A member of the court, however, explained that the status quo ante order – which has the same effect as a temporary restraining order (TRO) – means the Comelec should revert to its previous rule allowing national bets to have 120 minutes airtime in each TV network.
Te only confirmed that justices voted 9-6 in summer session to grant the relief sought in petitions filed by broadcasters GMA Network Corp., ABC Development Corp., and re-electionist Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano last February.
The majority votes were cast by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Presbitero Velasco Jr., Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Martin Villarama Jr., Jose Mendoza, Jose Perez and Marvic Leonen.
Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno dissented and was joined by Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Mariano del Castillo, Roberto Abad, Bienvenido Reyes and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
Petitioners argued that the limits imposed by Comelec on the total number of minutes for a national or local candidate’s broadcast campaign through Resolution Nos. 9615 and 9631 were “too restrictive.”
They also questioned the Comelec rule on prior notice for newscasts, interviews and guest appearances of candidates for purposes of monitoring.
Petitioners alleged that this rule “is unconstitutional because it constitutes prior restraint on the freedom of speech, expression and the press.”
Butch Raquel, consultant to the chairman and CEO for corporate communications of GMA Network Inc., said the company welcomed the Supreme Court status quo ante order, which lifted the airtime limits of political ads imposed by Comelec Resolution No. 9615 or the Rules and Regulations Implementing Republic Act No. 9006.
“We maintain that the cheapest and most effective way of informing the public about the qualifications of the candidates, and issues involving them during elections, is through the medium of radio and television,” he said.
Raquel said as noted by former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban in his newspaper column, “a 30-second ad placed on Channel 7’s ‘Kapuso Mo Jessica Soho’ could on the average reach 9,509,573 people. This calculation is derived from reports of Nielsen Philippines, the TV-radio rating firm used by most advertisers. Using the usual single ad rate of P419,265, the average cost per person would only be four centavos. Other programs are cheaper but reach fewer people.”
Cayetano hailed the SC’s decision to lift the Comelec’s limit on political ads airtime as a victory for democracy and for voters in poor rural areas with limited or no access to national television.
“Information about candidates should reach every Filipino family, not only those with access to national TV. This decision is a victory for voters, especially the poor in remote rural areas who now have the opportunity to hear more about the advocacy of various candidates,” said Cayetano who filed a Petition-in-Intervention in the case.
He said that the Comelec’s fear of this decision benefiting candidates with bigger budgets is unfounded because the candidates’ spending limit of P3 per voter remains unchanged. With Jess Diaz, Jose Rodel Clapano, Christina Mendez, Marvin Sy, Paolo Romero, Artemio Dumlao