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Cayetano urges Comelec to reverse ruling on candidate airtime restriction

Pushes for democratization rather than restriction

By Office of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano
March 8. 2013

PASAY CITY – "Now that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has a quorum, it can now reverse the ruling on limiting advertising time to 120 minutes for TV and 180 minutes for radio."

This was the statement of Senator Alan Cayetano today as President Benigno Aquino III announced the appointment of former Ambassador Macabangkit Lanto and Atty. Bernadette Sardillo as the new Comelec commissioners to replace former Commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Armando Veloso who both retired last February 2.

The Senator had long been urging the Comelec to reconsider its ruling on the time limit for candidate advertisements, saying that the agency should democratize campaigning rather than put limits to it.

Ad limits are anti-poor

The Senator said that limiting the advertising airtime, particularly for radio, deprives the masses of much-needed information about their candidates.

"With 180 minutes for all radio stations nationwide, that means candidates only have four 30-second spots for 80 provinces. Considering that we would also need to allot a great percentage of the 180 minutes to national issues, how will we get our message to our voters in the provinces and our stand on local issues with that limited amount of time?" Cayetano questioned.

Right to be informed

Cayetano added that with media being the most effective and most cost-efficient way to inform voters about their candidates, the aim of lessening the spending of candidates by limiting or regulating air time is at the expense of lessening voters’ opportunities to know their candidates more in order to vote wisely.

"I am not merely pushing for more leeway for candidates to advertise themselves during the campaign, I am fighting for the right of the people to be informed and to make the right choice when they vote. I am pushing for a more mature system of elections where in leveling the playing field means we focus more on enhancing people participation rather than increasing regulations," Cayetano stressed.

Monitor spending, not Ad time

Cayetano also said that instead of focusing on limiting advertising time, the Comelec should focus on monitoring candidates' campaign spending and the source of the funds used to advertise. "Maraming mga taong gumagamit ng pera na pang-advertise na nagmula sa illegal na paraan – sa gambling, smuggling, etc.," Cayetano said. "Kahit na hindi lahat ng kandidato ay ganito, ito ang dapat tutukan ng Comelec imbis na airtime."

Opposite effect

"I understand the Comelec wants candidates to limit spending in order to level the playing field. But that is not what is happening on the ground. Instead of spending on a 30-second ad, candidates will instead spend on sorties where you have to purchase tickets for all your staff and yourself, to book a hotel and to find transportation in the area. This actually costs more,” Cayetano explained.

During an earlier joint congressional oversight committee hearing on the automated election system (JCOC-AES), Cayetano had already expressed dismay over Comelec Resolution 9615 that limits national candidates to only 120 minutes of airtime for television and 180 minutes for radio during the campaign period. Meanwhile, local candidates are only allowed 60 minutes for television and 90 minutes for radio. In the past, the agency limited advertisements on a per-station basis.