Blog Lecture No. 73: Fair Elections Act

Let’s get straight to this point, shall we?

What does the constitution mandate about elections?

Section 2, Article V of the 1987 Constitution states:

The Congress shall provide a system for securing the secrecy and sanctity of the ballot as well as a system for absentee voting by qualified Filipinos abroad.

So what did Congress do as regards this mandate?

Of course, they did the Omnibus Elections Code, as amended, but this law was originally enacted under the 1973 Constitution.

Insofar as the 1987 Constitution (aside from the laws amending the OEC) is concerned, they came up with Republic Act No. 9006, otherwise known as the so-called “Fair Elections Act.”

What is the aim of this law?

According to its Section 2, “to guarantee or ensure equal opportunity for public service, including access to media time and space, and the equitable right to reply, for public information campaigns and fora among candidates and assure free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections.”

Yeah, right.

And how shall this be attained through said law?

The State (through the COMELEC, cough! cough!) shall, during the election period, supervise or regulate the enjoyment or utilization of all franchises or permits for the operation of media of communication or information.

What are the salient features of this law?

1. Equal media access to political parties, party list groups and other bona fide candidates
2. Comelec Space and Time
3. Candidate’s Right to Reply
4. Common Poster Areas
5. Discounted rates during election period

What is the election period, by the way?

Election period refers to a period starting from 90 days before the date of the election to 30 days after that election day.

Distinguish that from campaign period which is:

(a) For President, Vice-President and Senators, ninety (90) days before the day of the election; and

(b) For Members of the House of Representatives and elective provincial, city and municipal officials, forty-five (45) days before the day of the election.

However, in the preparation of the election calendar, the COMELEC may exclude the day before the day of the election itself, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. (Section 5, RA 7166)

How does RA 9006 ensure equal access to media?

This law:

1. Limits print advertisements to one-fourth (1/4) page in broadsheet and one-half (1/2) page in tabloids thrice a week per newspaper, magazine or other publications, during the campaign period.

2. Limits each bona fide candidate or registered political party for a nationally elective office to not more than one hundred twenty (120) minutes of television advertisement and one hundred eighty (180) minutes of radio advertisement whether by purchase or donation.

3. Limits each bona fide candidate or registered political party for a locally elective office to not more than sixty (60) minutes of television advertisement and ninety (90) minutes of radio advertisement whether by purchase or donation.

4. Mandates all members of media, television, radio or print, not to scrupulously report and interpret the news, and to take care not to suppress essential facts nor to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis.

5. Considers any mass media columnist, commentator, announcer, reporter, on-air correspondent or personality who is a candidate for any elective public office or is a campaign volunteer for or employed or retained in any capacity by any candidate or political party as resigned, if so required by their employer, or on a leave of absence from his/her work as such during the campaign period

6. Further mandates any media practitioner who is an official of a political party or a member of the campaign staff of a candidate or political party not to use his/her time or space to favor any candidate or political party.

7. Prohibits any movie, cinematograph or documentary portraying the life or biography of a candidate to be publicly exhibited in a theater, television station or any public forum during the campaign period.

8. Prohibits any movie, cinematograph or documentary portrayed by an actor or media personality who is himself a candidate to be publicly exhibited in a theater or any public forum during the campaign period.

What is COMELEC space and time?

It refers to COMELEC-procured print space and media time for two purposes:

1. For the announcement of the lits of candidates;
2. For equal allocation to candidates for campaign purposes;
3. For public information dissemination on election-related concerns.

What is the law now as regards posting of campaign materials?

The COMELEC may authorize political parties and party-list groups to erect common poster areas for their candidates in not more than ten (10) public places such as plazas, markets, barangay centers and the like, wherein candidates can post, display or exhibit election propaganda: Provided, That the size of the poster areas shall not exceed twelve (12) by sixteen (16) feet or its equivalent.

Independent candidates with no political parties may likewise be authorized to erect common poster areas in not more than ten (10) public places, the size of which shall not exceed four (4) by six (6) feet or its equivalent.

Candidates may post any lawful propaganda material in private places with the consent of the owner thereof, and in public places or property which shall be allocated equitably and impartially among the candidates.

What is this right to reply?

According to Section 10 of the law, all registered parties and bona fide candidates shall have the right to reply to charges published against them.

Such 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.

What are the media discount rates during election period?

It is 30% for TV, 20% for radio and 10% for print.

Any further questions should be directed to the COMELEC… but they’re busy right now…

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