BAGUIO CITY—The Supreme Court on Tuesday stopped the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from enforcing its rules limiting political campaign advertisements that are broadcast by television and radio outfits on the run-up to the May 13 elections.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. expressed disappointment over the tribunal’s ruling and threatened to step down.
Theodore Te, spokesman of the tribunal, said the court issued a status quo ante order on Comelec Resolution No. 9615 and on amendments imposed by Resolution No. 9631, which entitle each national candidate to a total of 120 minutes of TV campaign commercials and 180 minutes of radio commercials for the entire campaign period.
The same resolutions entitle each local candidate to a total of 60 minutes of TV commercial time and 90 minutes of radio advertisements, for the duration of the campaign.
The case against the Comelec’s airtime limits was filed by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, GMA Network Inc., Radio Mindanao Network, Bombo Radyo and TV5.
Instead of a temporary restraining order, the court issued a status quo ante order, which requires the networks and the poll body to treat the matter to be in a state prior to being challenged.
Te said nine justices voted for the status quo ante order: Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Marvic Leonen, Lucas Bersamin, Martin Villarama Jr., Jose Mendoza and Jose Perez.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno led the dissenting votes alongside Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Roberto Abad, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Mariano del Castillo and Bienvenido Reyes.
Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño Jr., who attended an earlier hearing at the Supreme Court here, said the ruling lifting the airtime limit on political ads “favored wealthy candidates or those backed by the ruling elite.”
“It is disgusting that the Supreme Court has decided against the Comelec’s effort to rein in expensive campaigns which poor or cash-strapped candidates like me cannot afford,” he said in a text message.
But GMA Network welcomed the Supreme Court order lifting the airtime limits on political ads.
“We maintain that the cheapest and most effective way of informing the public about the qualifications of the candidates, and issues involving them during elections, is through the medium of radio and television,” it said in a statement.
Reelectionist Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said the tribunal’s ruling was a victory for democracy.
“Information about candidates should reach every Filipino family, not only those with access to national TV,” Cayetano said in a statement.
Cayetano said the Comelec’s fear of the Supreme Court ruling benefiting candidates with bigger budgets was unfounded because the candidates’ spending limit of P3 per voter remained unchanged.
His views, however, were not shared by one of his fellow reelectionists in the administration coalition. “This will definitely be a boost, revenue wise, for the smaller TV and radio stations during this campaign season,” said Sen. Francis Escudero, the chairman of the Senate committee on justice.
“However, this ruling will definitely also give an advantage and boost to the richer candidates who can more easily place more ads compared to candidates with less money like us,” Escudero added.—With reports from Vincent Cabreza and Norman Bordadora