Broadcast company GMA Network filed a petition for certiorari with a prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or a writ of preliminary injunction with the Supreme Court to declare null and void the controversial provisions of the Commission on Elections’ (COMELEC) Resolution No. 9615, and to enjoin the latter from implementing such provisions during the 2013 national and local elections.
This stemmed from the decision of the COMELEC to stand by its new airtime allotment rule despite the Network’s earlier appeal to seek clarification, and pray for the recall and modification of the said resolution, as well as the re-application of the per station airtime limits observed during past elections.
In its petition, GMA, thru legal counsel Atty. Roberto Rafael V. Lucila, Atty. Pierre M. Cantara, Atty. Paul Erik D. Manalo, and Atty. Felipe Enrique M. Gozon, Jr. of Belo Gozon Elma Parel Asuncion & Lucila Law Office, stressed on the urgency of the matter involved in light of the approaching start of the campaign period.
GMA said that “the consequent damage in the event that the New Rules are not immediately enjoined is likewise clear, widespread, and irreparable” primarily owing to the “the need of the voting public to be effectively and adequately informed.”
The Network submitted that “the aggregate airtime limits imposed by the COMELEC in the New Rules are so restrictive that they amount to a State-sponsored suppression of the right of the people to know their candidates, and the right of the candidates to bring across their qualifications and platform of government to the people, which are integral to the right of suffrage under Article V, Section 1 of the Constitution.”
GMA said that the new airtime rule is “indeed a throwback to the days when the so-called political ad ban was in effect.” Given that access to media is impaired, GMA noted that “the New Rules therefore contradict and defeat the intent of the Fair Elections Act,” a law which the COMELEC is supposed to implement.
The Network also raised that “candidates and their political parties, to whom GMA is mandated by law to provide equal access, will be prejudiced particularly the lesser known candidates or political parties because they will not be able to reach most of the voters and will be deprived of the most effective means of campaigning on a national level.”
GMA also noted that the application of a candidate’s or a political party’s aggregate airtime limits under the New Rules constitutes “an infringement of the constitutionally protected freedom of speech, of the press, and of expression.” According to the Network, “there is no legitimate and substantial public or governmental interest, deserving of the subservience of the right to free speech and expression that is being advanced by the New Rules.”
GMA added that, under the New Rules, media entities will be “constrained to undertake the impossible task of monitoring the broadcast of other radio and television stations and cable TV providers,” which would entail enormous added financial and logistical burdens, “in order to avoid administrative and criminal liability.
GMA also raised with the Honorable Court its concerns on the manner of the issuance of the New Rules, which was promulgated “without prior public participation particularly from those affected by the said resolution.” The Network stressed that depriving the stakeholders of a “meaningful participation in the drafting of said administrative rule directing them” is a “clear denial of the right to due process of law as regards the exercise of rule-making functions of government agencies.”
GMA also asserted that the hearing conducted by the COMELEC on January 31, 2013 cannot be deemed as compliance with “the requirement of public consultation or even a recognition of the affected parties’ right to due process” given that the hearing was conducted only after the issuance of the New Rules on January 15, 2013, and only after GMA and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas sent their respective letters “assailing the constitutionality, legality, and practicality of the New Rules.”