Friday, March 26, 2010

Noynoy faces disqualification (LP bet, NP exceed airtime limits)

By Marie A. Surbano

Original Story:

Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino faces disqualification from the presidential race, as he has violated the election laws, having exceeded, as of March 12 , the TV airtime allotted for each presidential candidate under the Fair Elections Law.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is empowered to immediately disqualify a candidate if he is found to have violated election laws.

The penalty is six years in jail, as stated in Section 264 of the Omnibus Election Code.

Aquino has exceeded the 120 minutes allowable time to place political advertisements on ABS-CBN.

The Nacionalista Party (NP) has also exceeded its allowable airtime of 120 minutes for every TV station, although the Comelec claimed that NP bet Manuel “Manny” Villar, using his personal and not party funds, still has to use up his allowable time in ABS-CBN.

At a press briefing yesterday, Comelec spokesman

James Jimenez warned Aquino against airing any more of his political ads in ABS-CBN as he can no longer place an advertisement in the said television network using his personal funds.

Aquino, however, will still be allowed to air his political ads, but it will have to be his party that will finance his ads.

“According to our broadcast logs that we have received from the TV stations, he (Aquino) has logged more than 290 minutes already,” he said.

Two hundred ninety minutes translate to doubling Aquino’s alloted airing time in ABS-CBN.

Jimenez said Villar, based on his personal funds, has only utilized 27.75 minutes of the time allocation, but he stressed that Villar’s party, has also exceeded the specified time for airing advertisements on TV when it accumulated 256.5 minutes in the same network.

“Villar has not gone over the limit but the NP which has been airing Villar ads, has gone over the limit. Villar is not technically over the limit,” the Comelec official said, explaining that the ads of Villar that were aired over ABS-CBN were paid for by his party, NP, and not by him, which is the reason his TV ads exposure has been accredited to the NP and not to Villar.

Jimenez said that broadcast logs were recorded from Feb. 9, the start of the campaign period for the national candidates to March 12, 2010.

He noted that after coming up with the report, they will individually inform the candidates if they exceeded their limit or are still within the time limit.

For those who exceeded the allowable time, Jimenez said the Comelec will be writing the candidate concerned warning them from airing further ads on the said stations.

Jimenez warned that exceeding the time limit is an election offence and offenders may face disqualification charges.

But the Comelec official added that it is not totally over for Aquino to place an advertisement on ABS-CBN since he can still use the resources of his party, LP to finance his political ads.

“If Villar did it this way, meaning he has not used his own credit, the NP can no longer come up with ads. The reverse is true with the other candidates,” he said.

The figures in the candidate’s alloted 120 minutes of airing their political ads in two major TV networks, however, are different from the figures presented by Comelec and a TV monitoring firm, on the time exceeded by the two so-called front-runners. But both data show that Aquino and Villar exceeded their allowable airing time limits.

From data culled by monitoring firm AGB Nielsen Media Research, it was shown that from Feb. 9 to March 24, Villar had already used up 122.5 minutes of the alloted 120 minutes for his political ads in ABS-CBN and 128.25 minutes in GMA-7, already an infraction of the election law and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) rules.

The Comelec figure is 256.5 minutes and 27.25 total for Villar in ABS-CBN alone, and only measured until March 12.

For Aquino, AGB Nielsen’s data showed he had used up 129 minutes in ABS-CBN, or 6.5 minutes more than Villar in ABS-CBN, but still has 2 minutes left over for GMA-7.

The Comelec figures show Aquino to have an airing time of some 291 minutes in ABS-CBN alone.

Comelec says it obtained its figures from the broadcast networks’ logbooks.

The AGB Nielsen report was presented on Friday morning by the Pera at Pulitika consortium, which monitors the candidates’ adherence to campaign finance laws.

Both the LP and the NP denied that they had exceeded their allotted airing time, and denied vehemently they had violated the election laws.

LP campaign manager Butch Abad claimed that Aquino is using the party’s allowable air time, as the party allows its candidates to use the allowable airing time for their candidates.

But this could also mean that the NP and the LP, as parties, will no longer have the time alloted to their candidates, such as their senatorial bets, as their standard bearers would have eaten into their party’s allowable time.

Also, what is clear is that Aquino had violated the election laws, as well as Villar’s party, having exceeded their alloted airing time.

Aquino’s spokesman said he and his candidate will be asking the TV networks to issue them a “certificate saying we have not exceeded or air time limits,” and insisted that they will still be airing Aquino’s ads.

The Comelec however already said that the data culled by the poll body came from the TV stations logbooks.

“First of all we have Aquino going over the limit. According to our broadcast logs that we received from television stations, he has logged more than 290 minutes already. This is totalled against his personal limit,” Jimenez told reporters in a news briefing.

Jimenez warned both Aquino and NP not to place any ads on ABS-CBN as this constitutes an election offense and will be grounds for disqualification.

Jimenez said they are also studying the possibility of holding the network liable for the excess in broadcast time.

“Its an election offense ultimately disqualification is a possibility. So we would advise them not to continue putting out ads where they have exceeded their limits,” he reiterated, adding that they have already submitted to the Comelec law department their reports.

It will be the law department that is tasked to study and recommend the proper sanctions.

“Everyone else is way below the limits for this particular channel,” he said.

Republic Act 9006 or the Fair Elections Act allows candidates and the political party a maximum of 120 minutes per station for TV and cable channels and 180 minutes per station for radio network.

Meanwhile, poll watchdog Consortium for Electoral
Reform (CER) is now monitoring key major areas in the country where cheating and election related violence are expected.

In a news conference held yesterday, CER executive director Ramon Casiple revealed that these areas include Davao, Campostela Valley, Quezon and Mindoro that are not considered as traditionally “hotspots areas”.

Casiple specifically noted Davao City where incumbent Mayor Rodrigo Duterte will compete against House Speaker Prospero Nograles.

“The rivalry between two contending camps is getting intense each day so much that the DavaeƱos are feeling the heat of possible open untoward incidents,” Casiple said.

Also, Casiple said that Moncayo, Compostella Valley should also be monitored because “stakeholders of gold-rich Mt. Diwalwal are currently involved in the local elections, coupled with the participation of” former police intelligence officer Cesar Mancao as a congressional candidate.

“What complicates the unstable political environment are the New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas and roving armed bands of the Ampatuans seeking survival,” the report further stated.

Another area that needs to be monitored is the province of Sarrangani where boxing icon Manny Pacquiao is running for congressman against shipping magnate Roy Choingbian.

Casiple said Batangas is also an area that should be tightly watched because former executive secretary Eduardo Ermita will also run for congress.

Other areas that should be closely monitored are the provinces of Sorsogon, Quezon, Mindoro Oriental and Mindoro Occidental as well as Negros Occidental where the intense political rivalries is complicated by the aggressive operations of the NPA.

“The automation of the elections can lead to the increase in violence because those who have the intention to cheat may not be able to do so. They may resort to violence, instead,” he added.

CER together with the Vote Peace Response Teams (VPRT) similarly asked the Comelec to place the entire province of Masbate and Maguindanao under its control “given the continued presence of threat groups such as the partisan armed groups and NPA.

“We have to watch over areas where the potential for violence is high. We must not ignore the warning signs,” he maintained.

In its report, VPRT said that a total of 39 election related deaths were recorded from Jan. 10 to March 25,2010.

Region V registered the highest number of incidents with 11 cases followed by region 3 with 5 cases and region IV-A and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) placed on third with four incidents each.

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