Feb 082013
(Updated 5:44 p.m.) Broadcast giant GMA Network Corp. on Friday asked the Supreme Court to stop and declare as illegal two Commission on Elections (Comelec) resolutions limiting political advertisements in television and radio.

In a 56-page petition for certiorari, the network said Comelec Resolution 9615 issued in January and Resolution 9631 in February imposing limits on the total number of minutes for a national or local candidate’s broadcast campaign were “too restrictive.”

“We raised that the aggregate airtime for political advertisements is restrictive considering that it inpinges on the right to suffarge and the right of the people to be informed on important matters and the right of the people to free speech and expression,” said one of the network’s lawyers, Maria Estelita Arles.

Under the January Comelec ruling, which was upheld by the February resolution, the following guidelines were set:

  • For all national candidates, 120 minutes in all TV networks and 180 minutes in all radio stations
  • For all local candidates, 60 minutes in all TV networks and 90 minutes in all radio stations.

GMA Network also asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order or a writ of preliminary injunction against the Comelec ruling. It also said the Comelec ruling should be declared unconstitutional and unlawful for having been promulgated in excess or without jurisdiction.

“Section 9(a) of the new rulesis a cruel and oppressive regulation as it imposes the unreasonable and nearly impossible burden on the broadcast mass media of monitoring a candidate’s or political party’s aggregate airtime minutes in real time, in order to avoid administrative and criminal liability,” read the petition.

No public consultations

The network said the Comelec rulings were promulgated without public consultations in supposed violation of the network’s right to due process.

It added the poll body’s decision to change its interpretation of airtime limits for ads from the per station basis to an aggregate basis under Section 9(a) “impairs the right to suffrage, is arbitrary and goes against the object of the Fair Elections Act.”

GMA also said if the new rules would be followed, a national candidate would only be entitled an average of 88.81 second per day in TV ads during the 88 days of the campaign period.

GMA said if that candidate chooses to place his ads in three networks, that would mean he will be entitle to only 22.27 seconds of airtime per network per day.

“With a 20-hour programming per day and considering the limits of a station’s coverage, it will be difficult for one advertising spot to make a sensible and feasible communication to the public or in political propaganda, to make known a candidate’s qualifications and stand on public issues,” it said.

The network added that due to the limited exposure of candidates, “the voting public will suffer as they will not be adequately informed of the identities and qualifications of lesser known candidates.”

GMA further said the new rules would not support any “legitimate and substantial public or government interest, deserving of the subservience on free speech and expression. — Mark D. Merueñas/KBK, GMA News

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