Comelec to limit candidates’ campaign ads airtime in 2016
Unfazed by the recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down airtime limits for political advertisements in the May, 2013 elections, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday said that it will set a ceiling for political commercials in 2016.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. revealed this yesterday when he appeared before the House Committee on Appropriations where the poll body’s proposed P16.9-billion budget for next year was deliberated upon.
Brillantes said despite the SC ruling, they could still impose an airtime limit on political advertisements.
“We want to have a level playing field among the candidates. We are not protecting the business interest here. Pero pagsinabi nila, ng SC na hindi tama ito, susunod kami,” he said.
In the same hearing, Brillantes said the Comelec would no longer file a motion for consideration to appeal the SC’s ruling which declared as unconstitutional the airtime limit set by poll body on political advertisements of candidates in the May, 2013 elections.
“It was unanimous. We would rather not file an MR. Anyway, it would be useless since the Comelec resolution was intended for 2013 polls. We will craft a new resolution,” he said during the House hearing.
Brillantes explained that Comelec Resolution 9615, which sets the airtime limits of campaign advertisements in counting the aggregate total, not on per television and radio station basis, was not implemented in 2013 following the issuance by the SC of a temporary restraining order (TRO).
“The candidates were afraid to defy the resolution because if the SC sustained it, hahabulin namin sila. So hindi rin talaga nakagalaw ang mga kandidato,” Brillantes said.
Branding the Comelec’s resolution as “arbitrary,” the SC voted unanimously to “partially” grant the petitions filed by GMA Network, ABC Development Corp., ABS-CBN, Manila Broadcasting Company, and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) challenging Comelec Resolution 9615, as amended by Resolution 9631.
Brillantes also said that the Comelec will try using the direct recording technology (DRT) to make the voting system for the 2016 polls more efficient.
“We’re going to have the OMR (Optical Machine Reader) and we’ll pilot the DRE (in 2016) The DRE is a totally different technology from the OMR. Wala itong paper trail although may lalabas pa ring resibo… Parang iPad lang tapos [may lalabas] na resibo,” he said.
But he said the use of such technology would depend on the budget that would be given to them.
He explained that touch screen technology is more expensive since the government has to shelve out substantial budget to purchase five to 10 machines in each precinct.
He said the Comelec has yet to identify their pilot areas where they would test the DRT.
Comelec originally proposed P36 billion for next year, but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) only allotted P16.9 billion for the poll body under the proposed 2015 national budget.
LIMIT ON SPENDING
Even without a new resolution, Brillantes said the Comelec could still indirectly restrict airtime of candidates through their campaign spending.
“To counter this laxity, the Comelec vows to impose stricter campaign finance regulations – particularly on expense monitoring and documentary requirements – for the 2016 elections,” Brillantes said.
Following the SC ruling, Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. asked the Comelec to strictly implement the Statements of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) in the 2016 presidential elections to level the playing field among candidates.
“Well, actually there’s a money limit to spending, but it could be circumvented. Frankly, I believe the Comelec was right in imposing a limit. It certainly benefits the rich candidates,” he said, fearing that Republic Act (RA) No. 7166 or the SOCE could be violated.
RICH CANDIDATES FAVORED
House Deputy Majority Leader and Citizens Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo “Rodito” Albano III, and Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz also lamented that the SC ruling favors moneyed candidates. “This will be favorable to the moneyed candidates. However, there is still limit being imposed by the Comelec on a candidate on allowable expense per voter. Having said that, there is still a limit to the moneyed candidates. Good platform and good name win an election and the perfect example is PNoy (President Aquino),” Tugna said.
Albano said he was not surprised by the SC decision that sided with the petitions filed by GMA Network, ABC Development Corp., ABS-CBN, Manila Broadcasting Company and the KBP.
“The rich candidates always have the advantage. What’s new?” he pointed out. (With a report from Samuel P. Medenilla)