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Media entities are real parties in interest

/ 10:45 PM March 07, 2013

We refer to lawyer Romulo Macalintal’s Feb. 2 letter (“Ad rules to benefit voters”). Macalintal claimed that had the implementation of Comelec Resolution No. 9615 been stopped by the Supreme Court, “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” in the 2013 elections.

We beg to disagree. Without Resolution 9615, Comelec Resolution No. 8758—as its title Rules and Regulations Implementing Republic Act No. 9006, otherwise known as the Fair Election Practices Act, in relation to the May 10, 2010 Synchronized National and Local Elections, and Subsequent Elections states—can apply to elections subsequent to the May 2010 elections. Resolution 8758, too, provides for political advertisement on the basis of air time limits, on a per station basis; accepted by broadcast media, this led to a successful and orderly national and local elections in 2010.

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Contrary to Macalintal’s claim, media entities are real parties in interest as they and their officers stand to incur criminal liability under Resolution 9615. Sections 7(d), 9(a) and 35 of this resolution impose on broadcast stations the unfair and unreasonable burden of surveillance and monitoring of broadcasts in other radio/television/cable stations in order to avoid criminal and administrative liability. Such requirement is an impossible task; the threat of criminal liability is cruel and oppressive. The same clear and present danger exists in the mandatory right-of-reply obligation imposed on broadcast media by the resolution.

Moreover, Resolution 9615, as amended by Comelec Resolution No. 9631, imposes a norm of conduct that disrupts and emasculates the broadcasting mandate of the legislative franchise—i.e., to provide television and radio services to the public. This, in effect, curtails the public’s right to information on matters of public concern, including the right to know and assess candidates, as well as their qualifications and programs of government and those of their respective political parties.

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Indeed, the National Press Club and GMA Network Inc., as well as the Social Weather Stations, were allowed by the Supreme Court in the past to question laws and Comelec resolutions affecting their respective businesses and corporate affairs. There is no reason to depart from the established jurisprudence.

Lastly, we also disagree with Macalintal’s view that “[w]ithout such restriction, the rich and incumbent candidates will lord it over the disadvantaged poor and neophyte candidates.” Any conclusion on the effect of such restriction is purely speculative in the absence of substantial empirical data affirming the same. Assuming that Macalintal’s view is based on testimonials, there are equally ascertainable testimonials to prove that virtually unknown, poor and neophyte candidates were benefited by mass media and won elections, while “rich and incumbent candidates” did not.

—ROBERTO RAFAEL V. LUCILA and

PIERRE M. CANTARA,

Belo Gozon Elma Parel Asuncion & Lucila

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