MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will ask the Supreme Court (SC) to immediately decide on the petitions involving airtime limits for candidates.
Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said yesterday he is coordinating with the Solicitor General for the immediate filing of a motion to resolve merits of the cases.
“Since you issued a status quo ante order (SQA), I think you should resolve the merits within the next few days,” he said. “I’m going to ask the Solicitor General who’s handling the case for us to file a motion immediately. They cannot leave us in limbo.”
Brillantes said the SC did not decide on the petitions of GMA-7, TV5, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano.
“It’s a setback because it effectively ties our hands and says ‘you cannot do anything because there is a status quo ante order,’ That’s what I do not like,” he said.
Brillantes said as of press time, the Comelec has not received a copy of the status quo ante order.
It is clueless on what to do with the airtime limits, he added.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III criticized the SC order yesterday.
“Not just the Supreme Court, but also the TV stations are not following the law,” he said.
Sotto said the SC order favors broadcast stations and rich candidates.
“Of course, it is all about money,” he said.
“The problem is why did the Supreme Court, being the highest court of the land, violate the law? Why are they deviating from the law in their latest ruling?
“They cannot amend the law with their lopsided interpretation.”
Sotto said Republic Act 9006, the Fair Elections Act, is clear on the guidelines for political propaganda.
The law was passed with the end goal of lifting the political ad ban, he added.
Senatorial bets speak out
Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay said the ruling would only benefit the moneyed politicians and allies of the administration.
“The Supreme Court ruling is saddening,” she said.
“Definitely, the candidates who don’t have money do not have the chance. The ruling of the Supreme Court does not level the playing field between the rich and poor candidates.”
Magsaysay said the SC order was a victory for the broadcast networks.
“Definitely, the administration won this one,” she said.
“Administration candidates have the resources to spend for 120 minutes per radio station, per network.”
Magsaysay said she would not go “caroling” before huge firms and tycoons to maintain her independence in the Senate.
She would rely on sorties and the endorsement of the White Vote Movement, she added.
Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile said the SC order could cause confusion.
“The resources of candidates are not unlimited,” he said.
“Some may have a little bit more than others. Now that the limits on the airtime have been lifted, we will have to rethink on how to best use the available resources.
Sen. Gregorio Honasan said the SC order will not affect him.
“My capability to go into TV ads infomercials, radio or multimedia is limited so it doesn’t affect me,” he said.
Honasan said the issue on airtime caps should have been addressed before the campaign period.
“I go direct to the people. I bring the issues to the people and rely on their collective wisdom and judgment,” he said.
Former senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr. said yesterday the threat of Brillantes to resign will not do anyone any good with less than a month left before the midterm elections.
“The pressure is high because the senatorial midterm election is just around the corner,” he said.
“We all need to take a deep breath, calm down and think things over. We cannot afford mistakes at this time, especially those arising from rash decisions. We do not need a leadership vacuum at this point.”
A vacancy in the Comelec chairmanship would only disrupt preparations for the May elections, he added.
Magsaysay said a standoff between the SC and the Comelec would only divide the nation.
“If the Supreme Court insists on the supremacy of its decisions and the Comelec stands by its rulings, the government and the Filipino people would be torn which decision to follow. And this could raise constitutional questions,” he said.
“But at the end of the day, a decision has to be made. They call it in the legal community as ‘dura lex sed lex’ – no matter how harsh, it is the law and that should be implemented. And under this tense situation between the SC and the Comelec, which decision do we follow? Do we really need to raise this issue before the high tribunal again?”
Former lawmaker Cynthia Villar is unsure if she will use additional airtime for campaign advertisement on radio and television following the SC order.
Speaking over Radyo Bulacan, Villar said it would depend if they still have the budget.
Villar said her team still has to determine if she will need additional campaign advertisement.
“It will be the decision of the person managing my campaign ads,” she said.
Villar said campaign advertisements on radio and television are important for national candidates, although they are expensive.
It is physically impossible for them to conduct a house-to-house campaign as local candidates do, she added.
Villar said the Comelec has initiated election reforms through its rulings.
However, the problem is in implementation like in the poster law, she added.
Villar said many candidates are violating Comelec guidelines and must be prosecuted.
Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara asked yesterday Brillantes to reconsider his plan to resign.
“Chairman Brillantes should remain as Comelec head,” he said.
“He is on top of things and most of the major preparations for this election season. There are election matters that he is the master of.”
Angara said a transfer of leadership at this time would not be good for the poll body and the democratic processes.
“There would be major adjustments and transition pains should he resign,” he said.
“Our hope is that he does not and that he puts on hold any resignation plan until after the election is over.”
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said yesterday the SC might have overstepped its jurisdiction by dictating what the Comelec should do in connection with the May 13 polls.
“Chairman Brillantes has every right to feel dismayed with the Supreme Court as it slapped the Comelec with another decision that is contrary to the commission’s decisions, which were done as part of its mandate to administer and oversee the conduct of the elections,” he said.
“He is understandably demoralized after a string of Supreme Court rulings that went against Comelec’s resolutions. The SC decisions are not only against the commission’s resolutions, but more importantly, the tribunal’s rulings are remarkably against basic state principles.”
Colmenares said Bayan Muna supports the Comelec decision to prescribe an airtime limit for political advertisements to level the playing field among candidates.
The poll body’s efforts to regulate campaigning and campaign paraphernalia are an implementation of the Fair Elections Act, he added.
Colmenares said the SC order negates Comelec’s efforts to level the playing field and enforce the law.
“The law is clear - only the marginalized and underrepresented can participate in the party-list,” he said. –With Christina Mendez, Alexis Romero, Dino Balabo, Marvin Sy, Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero