outbrain
Close  
COMMENTARY

VP has no right to demand right to reply

THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) has no power to dictate what a newspaper may publish on its front page. Its “right to reply” regulations, first passed for the 2013 elections, clearly exceed its powers under our Constitution.

The Inquirer published a front-page exclusive on March 17 on Vice President Jejomar Binay’s alleged P100-million transfer to Hong Kong, using a remittance firm involved in the alleged $81-million money-laundering scheme, which is being investigated by the Senate.

ADVERTISEMENT

The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) has asked the Comelec to grant a right to reply with the same prominence.

This would require the Inquirer to publish UNA’s reaction on its front page. Any self-respecting newspaper would go to court before being forced to do this.

FEATURED STORIES

We have, unfortunately, inconsistent laws on the right to reply. Article IX-C, Section 4 of our Constitution authorizes Comelec to regulate all permits to operate mass media during elections.

This regulation “shall aim to ensure equal opportunity, time, and space, and the right to reply, including reasonable, equal rates therefor, for public information campaigns and forums among candidates.”

Supreme Court doctrine interpreting the provision has consistently dealt with paid political ads, not news.

For example, the 1990 Sanidad case held: “[Nothing in Art. IX-C, §4] can be construed to mean that the Comelec has also been granted the right to supervise and regulate the exercise by media practitioners themselves.”

Fair Election Act

Unfortunately, the Fair Election Act of 2001 seems to unduly broaden the Supreme Court’s context. Section 10 of this law provides: “All registered parties and bona fide candidates shall have the right to reply to charges published against them. The reply shall be given publicity by the newspaper, television and/or radio station which first printed or aired the charges with the same prominence or in the same page or section or in the same time slot as the first statement.”

Comelec Resolution No. 10049 (2016) echoes Section 10, as did the 2013 resolution.

ADVERTISEMENT

The right to reply in the Fair Election Act must be interpreted only to ensure fair opportunity to place political ads.

Not even the weighty power over media granted to the Comelec in our Constitution could possibly justify violating free speech by allowing anyone to dictate to a newspaper editor what to put on the front page. An editor has the right to choose what prominence to give what topics.

Corruption stories

I originally denounced the right to reply (“To Grace Poe: Right to reply already law”, Opinion, 5/29/2014) when legislators proposed to pass it as law in response to legislators being named in the Inquirer’s 2014 corruption stories involving businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

Allowing a right to reply then would have destroyed the Inquirer and forced it to run a hundred denials as front-page stories.

I highlighted how the Comelec’s 2013 right to reply regulations made this a real danger.

The Inquirer again faces the same flagrantly unconstitutional attack on freedom of the press.

There can be no right to reply applied to its front page when the Constitution clearly provides for none.

* * *

React: [email protected], Twitter @oscarfbtan, facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan.

Read Next
EDITORS' PICK
MOST READ
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Binay corruption case, Jejomar Binay, nation, news, United Nationalist Alliance
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.


© Copyright 1997-2020 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.