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GMA Network vs COMELEC
G.R. No. 205357
Assailed in these petitions are certain regulations promulgated by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) relative to the conduct of the 2013 national and local elections dealing with political advertisements. Specifically, the petitions question the constitutionality of the limitations placed on aggregate airtime allowed to candidates and political parties, as well as the requirements incident thereto, such as the need to report the same, and the sanctions imposed for violations. The five (5) petitions before the Court put in issue the alleged unconstitutionality of Section 9 (a) of COMELEC Resolution No. 9615 (Resolution) limiting the broadcast and radio advertisements of candidates and political parties for national election positions to an aggregate total of one hundred twenty (120) minutes and one hundred eighty (180) minutes, respectively. They contend that such restrictive regulation on allowable broadcast time violates freedom of the press, impairs the people’s right to suffrage as well as their right to information relative to the exercise of their right to choose who to elect during the forth coming elections.
During the previous elections of May 14, 2007 and May 10, 2010, COMELEC issued Resolutions implementing and interpreting Section 6 of R.A. No. 9006, regarding airtime limitations, to mean that a candidate is entitled to the aforestated number of minutes "per station." For the May 2013 elections, however, respondent COMELEC promulgated Resolution No. 9615 dated January 15, 2013, changing the interpretation of said candidates' and political parties' airtime limitation for political campaigns or advertisements from a "per station" basis, to a "total aggregate" basis.
Whether or not the Comelec resolution is valid.
No. COMELEC Resolution No. 9615 introduced a radical departure from the previous COMELEC resolutions relative to the airtime limitations on political advertisements. This essentially consists in computing the airtime on an aggregate basis involving all the media of broadcast communications compared to the past where it was done on a per station basis. Thus, it becomes immediately obvious that there was effected a drastic reduction of the allowable minutes within which candidates and political parties would be able to campaign through the air. The question is accordingly whether this is within the power of the COMELEC to do or not. The Court holds that it is not within the power of the COMELEC to do so.
COMELEC, despite its role as the implementing arm of the Government in the enforcement and administration of all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an election, has neither the authority nor the license to expand, extend, or add anything to the law it seeks to implement thereby. The IRRs the COMELEC issued for that purpose should always be in accord with the law to be implemented, and should not override, supplant, or modify the law. It is basic that the IRRs should remain consistent with the law they intend to carry out.