Supreme Court: Political ad per-station cap is final

The Supreme Court (SC) has rejected with finality attempts by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to bring back shorter airtime limits for political ads.

In September, the High Court declared that the aggregate total cap the Comelec enforced in January 2013 in anticipation of the May 2013 elections was unconstitutional.

Among its reasons for the ruling include violating freedom of expression and the arbitrary manner by which Comelec changed the previous per-station regulation.

Through the Solicitor General, the Comelec filed motion for reconsideration but the SC said Wednesday that did not present new and substantial arguments to reverse its September decision.

“Acting on the motion for partial reconsideration of the decision filed by the Office of the Solicitor General for respondent Commission on Elections, the Court resolved to deny with finality the said motion for reconsideration as 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 SC said.

This settles TV and radio airtime caps for national positions to 120 minutes on TV and 180 minutes on radio per station while local office candidates are limited to 60 minutes on TV and 80 minutes on radio.

The decision is in favor of separate petitions filed by GMA Network, Inc. and ABC Corp. (TV5) and the Kapasinan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) and ABS-CBN, which criticized the “new” rules as too restrictive and may stifle revenues.

The Comelec expressed its disappointment with the original SC ruling with an official statement on 2 September, concerned about how reverting back to per station caps can affect local television in the 2016 elections.

“With this new decision, the Supreme Court effectively obliterated a statutory mechanism to level the playing field by setting a cap on the quantity of media exposure candidates can buy.”