High Court strikes down Comelec airtime limit

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The Supreme Court has declared with finality as illegal and unconstitutional the directive of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that limited political and campaign advertisements for broadcast media during the 2013 polls.

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In its resolution dated October 14 and released only on Tuesday, the Court dismissed the motion for reconsideration filed by the Comelec through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), saying it did not present new arguments to make it reverse its September 2 ruling.

The Court gave weight to the petitions of broadcast networks GMA Network Corp., ABC Development Corp. and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano that challenged Section 9(a) of Comelec Resolution No. 9615, as amended by Resolution No. 9631.

The resolution gives national candidates an aggregate airtime of 180 minutes in all radio stations and 120 minutes in all TV stations. Local candidates have a 60-minute limit for TV and 90 minutes for radio.

The Supreme Court also made permanent the restraining order it issued on April 16 last year against the implementation of the Comelec resolution.

The Court said the Comelec must go back to its previous ruling which grants national candidates 120 minutes in TV airtime.

It said “the arbitrary manner by which Comelec changed the previous regulation from ‘per station’ to ‘aggregate total’, the violation of freedom of expression, speech and of the press, the violation of the people’s right to suffrage and the absence of prior hearing before adoption.”

“The Court sustained the other challenged sections of the resolution because it did not impose an unreasonable burden on the broadcast industry and the provision of the right to reply is reasonable under the circumstances,” it was pointed out.

GMA 7 and TV 5 asked the Supreme Court to stop pegging the television ads of a senatorial candidate to 120 minutes for all TV networks and 180 minutes for all radio stations nationwide.

The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkasters ng Pilipinas (KBP) and other sectors have also opposed the airtime limits.

In the petition, it was argued that the new rule was a drastic change, considering that the previous rule allowed each senatorial candidate to have 120 minutes of airtime a television network and 180 minutes a radio station.

The petitioners said the rule was “vague” and “too restrictive.”

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