The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is not changing its rule delimiting airtime for political ads on television and radio, although it has decided to modify its rule on the so-called right to reply in the interest of protecting the media.
The Comelec en banc remained unmoved by the arguments against its policy limiting the airtime for election propaganda to 120 minutes for each candidate in all TV networks, Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. said Friday.
The 180-minute limit in all radio stations will also stay, he said.
The commissioners “did not find anything convincing” in the arguments of those wanting to change the airtime limits, Brillantes told reporters on Friday at the ceremonies to mark the retirement of Commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Armando Velasco.
The Comelec heard the arguments of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) and GMA Network, which oppose the new rules on airtime, at a public hearing on Thursday.
Right to reply
The KBP and GMA argued that the airtime limit of 120 minutes for television and 180 minutes for radio would impede the candidates’ “exposure” and the opportunity for them to present themselves to the public, thus limiting the ability of the latter to make an informed decision when they cast their ballots on May 13.
According to Brillantes, the en banc decided to maintain the prevailing airtime limits, but with some changes in the right to reply and “prior notice” rules.
The “right to reply” rule gives candidates claiming to have been attacked by rival candidates in media interviews equal access to media.
Section 14 of Comelec Resolution 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 Thursday’s hearing, the KBP, which said the provision was “unconstitutional,” suggested that the commission set a “prescriptive period” for complaints from candidates aggrieved over published or aired attacks against them by rival candidates.
Brillantes said that under the amended resolution, not all complainants will be granted the right to reply.
The changes, he said, will be more “protective” of the media as the Comelec will be prescribing procedures to screen complaints.
“It will be more protective because there is a procedure before anybody can insist on their right of reply,” he explained.
Prior notice rule
He said the en banc will also “reword” the prior notice rule for candidates’ media interviews.
The Comelec has ruled that radio and television stations have to notify the poll body before conducting interviews of candidates, a policy that is opposed by the KBP.
The Comelec said this “prior notice” was necessary for the poll body to be able to determine whether the interviews were bona fide news or outright campaigning.
“The provision will remain but we will just reword it to make it clearer,” Brillantes said Friday.
He said the amended resolution was signed yesterday, 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.