MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections is standing pat on its ruling limiting the airing of political ads on television and radio but has agreed to to modify its “right to reply” requirement in a manner that would be “protective” of the media.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said Friday that the commission as a whole remain unmoved by opposition to election rules limiting television airtime of political propaganda to a total of 120 minutes for every candidate. The 180-minute limit for radio also stays, he said.
“We did not find anything convincing on the side of those who wanted to expand it again… we will retain the aggregate,” Brillantes told reporters on the sidelines of the retirement of Election Commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Armando Velasco in Intramuros, Manila.
The Comelec heard the arguments of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas and GMA Network objecting to the new rules at a public hearing on Thursday.
They argued that the airtime limit of 120 minutes for television and 180 minutes for radio will impede the exposure of candidates and their opportunity to present themselves to the public and allow them to make an informed decision when they cast their ballots on May 13.
“So we will just maintain it with some changes with the right to reply and some changes in the authority in notices,” said Brillantes.
He added that the Comelec has agreed to fine-tune provisions on the “right to reply” rule that gives candidates who feel slighted by their rivals in interviews a chance to gain equal access to media.
The changes, he said, will be more “protective” of the media as the Comelec will be providing in the amended resolution a procedure that will screen complaints.
“In fact, we will expand it to protect the media. It will be more protective because there is a procedure before anybody can just insist on their right of reply,” Brillantes added.
Section 14 of Comelec Resolution No. 9615 states that “all parties and bona fide candidates shall have the right to reply to charges against them. The reply shall be given publicity by the newspaper, television and/or radio station, which first printed or aired the charges.”
At the hearing, the KBP said the provision was “unconstitutional” and suggested that the commission set a “prescriptive period” for complaints by candidates who felt aggrieved by charges made by rivals in published news or radio reports.
Brillantes said under the amended resolution, not all complainants will be granted the right to reply.
“The provision will remain but we will just reword it to make it clearer,” said Brillantes.
He added that the amended resolution was signed Friday, which was Sarmiento and Velasco’s last day as election commissioners, and will probably be released on Monday.
“We will sign it today while we are still complete in the en banc… on Monday, Commissioners Sarmiento and Velasco can no longer sign,” he said.