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House wants to strengthen Comelec powers to regulate propaganda


By Ben Rosario

The House Committee on Suffrage has moved to strengthen the power of the Commission on Elections to regulate the rates of political propaganda on television, radio and print media to stop certain establishments from milking candidates during political campaign season.



Chaired by CIBAC Partylist Rep. Sherwin Tugna, the House panel endorsed approval of House Bill 6604, a consolidated measure seeking to regulate the rates of political propaganda on television,radio and print during an electoral campaign period.

H.B. 6604 consolidated two bills proposing to introduce much-needed amendments to Republic Act NO. 9006 or the Fair Election Act. Authors of the original measures included Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Farinas, Reps. Michelle M. Antonio (Agbiag Partylist) and Rosanna V. Vergara (PDP-Laban, Nueva Ecija).

Antonio said the legislative proposal extended Comelec’s power to regulate the rates of political propaganda in the mass media by preventing networks and publications from increasing advertising rates more than the average rates charged a year prior to the start of the campaign period.

She also disclosed that during the campaign period, media outlets are mandated to provide registered political parties and bona fide candidates a 50 percent discount for political advertisement and propaganda.

The bill imposes upon the networks and publishing houses a provisions that would prevent them from charging to candidates and political parties advertising rates that are higher than the cost imposed on regular advertisers.

In filing the bill, Antonio noted that despite its enactment in 2001, implementation of the the Fair Election Act has left much to be desired, saying that the lack of clear mechanisms for its implementation resulted to circumvention that led to “failure to achieve the true objective of the law.”

Under R.A. 9006, media outlets are mandated to grant advertising discounts of ten to 30 percent.

Since the law lacked parameters on the allowable increase in political propaganda rates, many media outlets compensate for the discount losses by increasing rates at the start of the 90-day election campaign period of up to double their actual rates.

Antonio revealed that television networks charged P1,424,000 for 30 second prime time advertising spot during the 2016 polls.

“Because of these exorbitant rates, several candidates were not able to place political advertisements in the tri-media i.e., in television, radio and print media,” she lamented.

During a committee hearing on the bill, Deputy Speaker and Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia chided the Comelec for giving priority in going after candidates believed to have overspent in the campaign.

“Comelec has chosen to focus on overspending of the candidates and has not looked into the possibility of overcharging by media outlets,” stated Garcia.

Rep. Henry Oaminal (PDP-Laban, Misamis Occidental) said advertising rates are usually jacked up by leading broadcast stations prior to the campaign period to ensure that the 30-percent discount imposed by the law is quickly recouped during the official campaign season.

Tugna explained that the Fair Elections Law has provided for safeguards that would allow fairness among moneyed and poor candidates to access media to inform the public of their capabilities and program of government.

“If media entities will impose high advertising rates, then equal opportunity for election will be a farce,” the partylist lawmaker pointed out.

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