Comelec won't regulate candidates' TV guestings

Kim Arveen Patria
Kim Arveen Patria
Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom

Does the Commission on Elections' rules on candidates' media interviews violate press freedom?

Poll chief Sixto Brillantes doesn't think so, as he noted that "prior restraint" is not Comelec's intention when it comes to media interviews but only "prior notice."

"We cannot regulate the interview," Brillantes told reporters in an interview Tuesday.

"We will just have to monitor the interview and check whether it will fall under propaganda or a legitimate interview on issues or a legitimate cause," he added.

The poll chief said Comelec may issue a "clarificatory resolution" amid mounting complaints over seemingly repressive rules on candidates' media guestings.

"[T]he broadcast stations or entities must show that prior approval of the Commission was secured," Comelec Resolution 9615 said.

Candidates and parties should also be "afforded equal opportunities to promote their candidacy," it added.

"Prior approval" in the resolution should not be interpreted as "express consent" but only as "prior notice," Brillantes said.

This, even as he admitted that the resolution was open to misinterpretation.

When it comes to lower airtime limits on advertisements via boradcast media, however, the poll body will stand its ground.

"Ang consensus namin di na kami magbabago dun (The consensus is that we will stand our ground on that) unless the Supreme Court tells us otherwise," Brillantes said.

"Dumiretso na sila sa Supreme Court (They should go to the Supreme Court) and finish it up because we are closing in on the Feb. 12 campaign period," he added.

The poll chief also noted that resolutions issued by the Comelec en banc are, as a rule, not open to motions for reconsideration (MR).

This, as the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) is seen to file an MR on the cumulative computation of airtime minutes.

Under election laws, candidates are only allowed 120 minutes of television ads and 180 minutes of radio ads for the 90-day campaign period.

This has been interpreted to be computed per media organization in the 2004, 2007 and 2010 elections.

Comelec Resolution 9615, however, reinterpreted the limit as referring to the aggregate total in all media networks.

"I think that was very clear in the intention of the lawmakers then," Brillantes said.

In interpreting the law, he added, Comelec considered the "correlation between the limitation and the expenses."