AIRTIME LIMITS VERDICT

Supreme Court ‘a confused lot,’ says lawyer

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The Supreme Court cannot issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a status quo ante order (SQAO) to remove the restrictions imposed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) regarding airtime limits for campaign ads by candidates in next month’s polls, a lawyer said on Friday.

Romulo Macalintal said the Supreme Court “seems to be a confused lot” when it issued a TRO on the airtime limits and directed the Comelec to use its 2010 rules on broadcast limits.

The Court’s public information officer, lawyer Theodore Te, earlier said the justices issued an SQAO but later issued a correction, stating it was a TRO that was issued.

Separate set

“The rule is very clear that for every election period, a separate set of resolution has to be issued by the Comelec to implement a particular provision of the election law sought to be enforced,” Macalintal said.

The airtime limits—120 minutes for TV and 180 minutes for radio for national candidates, and 60 minutes TV and 80 minutes radio for local candidates—are contained in Section 6 of Republic Act No. 9006 or the Fair Election Act of 2001. Macalintal said the law provides that its provisions are to be implemented by the Comelec by issuing the corresponding rules and regulations.

For the 2010 elections, Comelec issued Resolution No. 8758 specifically “in relation to the May 10, 2010 elections for national and local elections” to implement RA 9006. For 2013, Resolution No. 9615 was issued by the Comelec “in relation to the May 13, 2013, national, local and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.”

Resolution 8758 interpreted the airtime limits as “per television and radio station” but Resolution 9615 said the time limits are “aggregate.” Media companies and candidates complained about the Resolution 9615 before the Supreme Court.

Macalintal said that in imposing a TRO on Resolution 9615, the Court cannot say that Resolution 8758 should to be observed.

“Resolution 9615 is clearly separate and distinct from the aforesaid Resolution No. 8758, which was specifically designed and applicable to activities in the 2010 elections.

Macalintal warned that candidates who might avail of the TRO and use more time to air their political ads in excess of that set by the Comelec may find themselves in trouble should the Court later decide in favor of the Comelec position.

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