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Comelec appeals on air time

The Commission on Elections on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court to speed up its decision on airtime limits for campaign ads, saying the status quo order imposed on the poll body would affect the conduct of the election campaign. “Since they issued a status quo ante order, I think they need to finish deliberating on the case within the next few days,” Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said. “I’m going to ask the solicitor general who’s handling the case for us to file a motion immediately. We cannot leave it as it is. They should resolve the case based on its merits already,” he added. Brillantes also clarified that the status quo ante order issued by the Supreme Court on Tuesday was not the Court’s final decision. “No one can claim they won like one senator did. Nobody has won. A status quo order is not a decision,” he said. He admitted that he was disappointed with the recent Supreme Court rulings against the Comelec. He said he was not joking when he announced he was considering resigning but added he had not heard from the Palace. Brillantes said the latest decision of the Supreme Court affected the reforms being carried out by the Comelec. “It’s a setback because it effectively ties our hands and says you can’t move because of the status quo ante order,” Brillantes said. Under the Comelec rules, which were challenged before the Supreme Court, a national candidate is only allowed a total of 120 minutes of TV advertising, whether appearing on national, regional or local, free or cable television, and 180 minutes of radio advertising, whether airing on national, regional, or local radio, regardless of the number of stations or networks used. The rule has been challenged by two broadcast organizations and a senator as being “too restrictive.” Administration senatorial bet Ramon Magsaysay Jr. said Wednesday that now was not a time for a political vacuum in the Comelec, which still lacks two commissioners. “We do not need a leadership vacuum at this point. We cannot afford mistakes at this time, especially those arising from rash decisions,” Magsaysay said in reaction to Brillantes’ offer to resign. The Palace has declined to comment on Brillantes’ threat, saying it will wait until he has spoken with the President. “Chairman Brillantes reportedly wants to speak to the President about it. Let’s wait and see what happens after that conversation,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said. Magsaysay said a vacancy in the Comelec leadership would only disrupt preparations being made for the May 13 senatorial and local elections. The Comelec suffered one legal setback after another from the Supreme Court, which earlier junked the argument that party-list groups must be poor or must represent marginalized sectors to be allowed to run. The decision effectively overturned Comelec’s earlier ruling disqualifying 54 party-list groups. Some senatorial candidates said the suspension of airtime limits would favor rich candidates who can afford more radio and TV spots. But Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, who filed a petition against the rules, welcomed the Supreme Court’s status quo ante order. Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, another administration candidate, said the Court’s order complicated things for them because they would not know what rules to follow. “It puts the candidates in limbo since we don’t know which rules to follow, the old ruling which was per station or the new ruling of the Comelec which is based on total minutes,” Angara said. Opposition candidate Milagros Magsaysay, on the other hand, expressed disappointment over the Court’s order, saying it would disadvantage those who had fewer financial resources in the senatorial race. With Joyce Pangco Pañares and Maricel V. Cruz
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