Poll lawyer offers suggestions on TV ‘life story’ privilege of candidates
MANILA, Philippines—Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal believed that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should level the playing field for rich and poor candidates by allowing poor candidates to also avail themselves of the “life story” privilege.
Last week, a television network aired the life story of Grace Poe, and next to air is the life story of another administration bet.
Macalintal said if the candidates paid the television network to air their life story, similar privilege should be given to other candidates provided they can pay.
On the other hand, if there was no payment in airing the biopic, “the other bets may also demand from the TV station that similar time be donated to them,” Macalintal said.
“In all instances, the expenses or cost of donation for such TV show shall be included in the Statement of Electoral Contributions and Expenditures (SECE) of the concerned candidate,” Macalintal said adding that even the advertisements aired prior to the start of the campaign period or since they filed their certificate of candidacy in October, must be included in the SECE.
“The length of time allotted for said candidate since the law (Fair Elections Act) requires report of expenses in connection with the election and not only expenses in connection with or during the campaign period,” Macalintal said.
“To rule otherwise will open [the] floodgates of circumventing the law on expenses and contributions received by candidates for all they have to do is claim that these were incurred or received before the start of the campaign period, hence, they will not report them anymore. This will be very unfair to poor and neophyte candidates who cannot afford the cost of expensive political advertisements,” he added.
Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes said the poll body cannot charge candidates for premature campaigning by airing the episodes of their life story.
He said under the Automated Election Law, “unlawful acts applicable to a candidate shall take effect only upon the start of the campaign period” which is Feb. 12.