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SC upholds ruling striking down Comelec’s rules on airtime limits


The Supreme Court has affirmed its earlier ruling striking down the airtime limit on campaign ads imposed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that counted aggregate time for political advertisements per candidate, instead of limiting the airtime per station.
 
In a resolution, the high tribunal sitting en banc denied a partial motion for reconsideration (MR) filed by the Office of the Solicitor General representing the Comelec which sought to reverse the SC's September 2, 2014 decision declaring unconstitutional some parts of Comelec Resolution Nos. 9615 and 9361 for violating press freedom and for being "arbitrary."
 
The SC said it denied with finality Comelec's reconsideration plea because "the basic issues raised therein have been passed upon by this Court and no substantial arguments were presented to warrant the reversal of the questioned decision."
 
The resolution was dated October 14 but was made available to the media on Wednesday. The SC en banc is currently on recess. Both Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr. and Arturo Brion were on leave at the time of the deliberation for the Comelec's motion for reconsideration.
 
Under these resolutions, the Comelec set the following guidelines for political advertisements on television and radio:
 
- For all national candidates, 120 minutes on all TV networks and 180 minutes on all radio stations
 
- For all local candidates, 60 minutes in all TV networks and 90 minutes in all radio stations.
 
In particular, the Supreme Court junked the poll body's new regulation of summing up the total time of political advertisements, instead of limiting the airtime per station.
 
Prior to the resolution, which was issued before 2013 midterm elections, the guidelines referred to "per station" and not the "aggregate total" of the airtime limit.
 
Last year, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against the implementation of the two Comelec resolutions.
 
GMA Network Inc., ABC Development Corporation, and the Kapisanan ng mga Broadcaster ng Pilipinas were the petitioners in the case.
 
The Comelec had earlier expressed "disappointment" over the September 2 ruling of the SC.
 
The poll body had said that in response to the SC decision, it would instead "impose stricter campaign finance regulations—particularly on expense monitoring and documentary requirements—for the upcoming 2016 elections."
 
"We will likewise modify our existing rules regarding airtime policy to be consistent with the new ruling," the Comelec said at the time of the issuance of the original ruling. —NB, GMA News