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Ad rules to benefit voters



It would have been disastrous for the broadcast and print industries, and more so for the candidates and political parties, had the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the Commission on Elections from implementing its Resolution No. 9615 on time and space limits for political advertisements in the 2013 elections.

Had the implementation of the resolution been “TROed,” there would have been no resolution to implement the provision of Republic Act No. 9006 on the use of print and broadcast media for political advertisements. The law provides that RA 9006 could only be implemented by means of a resolution issued by the Comelec. Hence, without a Comelec resolution (or had the high court stopped its implementation), the candidates and political parties cannot use broadcast and print media for their political propaganda under RA 9006 (or until such time that the Court had lifted the TRO) simply because there would exist no resolution on how broadcast or print political advertisements would be regulated by the Comelec.

Precisely, media entities or their organizations are not the “real parties in interest” to file such petitions because they do not stand to benefit or be injured by the resolution. They cannot represent the interest of the entire electorate on their allegation that the resolution is so “restrictive that (it) suppresses the right of the people to know their candidates,” more so that their petitions are not in the nature of a class suit on behalf of all voters.

The candidates and/or duly registered voters may be the real parties in interest as they can show how this resolution affects their rights and interests. The voters can argue that the resolution prevents them from getting more information on the qualifications of candidates. And the candidates can claim that the intention of the law is to give them a wider avenue for introducing themselves to voters.

But in both instances candidates and voters should not ask for a TRO but for an immediate resolution (before the end of the campaign period) of the issue as time is of the essence. The issuance of a TRO pending resolution of their petitions will defeat the very purpose of RA 9006 to grant candidates and political parties the right to use media for their political propaganda.

On a positive note, the rationale behind such limitation should be appreciated by the electorate and the people in general. Without such restriction, the rich and the incumbent candidates will lord it over the disadvantaged poor and neophyte candidates. As a matter of fact, rich candidates have already taken advantage of the present policy of “no premature campaign” before the start of the campaign period. We are already witnesses to the rampant and widespread proliferation of “epal” political broadcast and print ads of rich and powerful politicians.

—ROMULO B. MACALINTAL,

election lawyer, Las Piñas City


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