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Alan Peter’s unrelenting war versus Comelec

It is interesting that Senator Alan Peter Cayetano’s move to stop a Commission on Elections (Comelec) rule limiting broadcast commercials is being interpreted in many ways. It will be recalled that, last week, Cayetano joined a group of broadcast media interests in a petition before the Supreme Court seeking to stop the implementation of the cap on candidates’ advertising airtime. The Comelec said this is designed to “equalize opportunities” between candidates who have a rather large campaign war chest and those who only have little to spend. It’s sort of narrowing the gap between rich bets and their poor rivals. The COMELEC rule is unconstitutional and smacks of grave abuse of discretion, Senator Cayetano claimed. It appears Cayetano is among the solons least expected to oppose such a rule which looks like it “levels the playing field”, as Comelec officials put it. The senator has been seen as a “level-playing-field” kind of person, so it has baffled many that he is now leading the effort to crush the COMELEC rule. Why the vehement opposition to the Comelec rule? Some say this could be nothing more than the next chapter in the running feud between the senator and Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes. The public would remember that Senator Cayetano had blocked Brillantes’ confirmation as head of the constitutional body since he had lawyered for the rival of the senator’s wife in the mayoralty race in Taguig City. Cayetano had pointed out that before he was named chair, Brillantes had questioned the poll victory of his wife, Lani, before the Comelec. He accused the Comelec chair of “blackmail”, saying the latter offered a “dismissal of the election protest” against the senator’s wife in exchange for Cayetano’s go-ahead for his confirmation. The exchange between the senator and the poll body chair was explosive and bitter. There was no “official truce”, only a cessation of hostilities. Could this be the resumption of the shootout? Is the senator out to thwart an opportunity for the Comelec to be remembered as having levelled the playing field? We don’t know. At this point, everything is speculative. There is another school of thought which says Cayetano probably needs to go on an airtime buying binge in order to offset the lead of the survey frontrunners in the senatorial race. To many, this makes sense. It will be noted that Senators Chiz Escudero and Loren Legarda appear to have cemented their places in the number 1 and 2 spots in most, if not all, surveys. Would buying more airtime for Cayetano’s commercials work in offsetting the lead? Some say yes, other say no. Broadcast commercials, it is pointed out, aim to create awareness and recall. As far as the two factors are concerned, Escudero, Legarda and Cayetano appear to be at par with one another. It is the “preference” or “likeability” factor that needs to be bridged, some say. In layman’s terms, is it possible that more voters “like” or “prefer” Chiz and Loren over Alan Peter? That is for experts to say. That is also an issue that needs to be addressed by Cayetano’s handlers. If the objective is to grab the number one spot, they should find out of keeping the window to huge airtime spending open so they can buy more advertising spot is a correct and cost-effective move. Why the need to land in the number one spot? We believe everyone knows the answer. Landing in the number one spot in a senatorial race makes one a “vice-presidentiable”, at least. Or even a presidentiable. Being senatorial topnotcher in the May elections will put Cayetano on the radar for 2016 where the names often mentioned is limited to only a handful. The “number one senator” tag makes for an excellent pitch to potential backers for a bid for vice- president or if there is an opportunity even the highest elective post in the land. Is Cayetanos’ renewed war against the Comelec on the airtime cap rule in anyway related to the battle for that important number one spot? We don’t know. We cannot discount the fact, however, that such viewpoint makes sense. Much sense. Cayetano has publicly explained his reasons for his vehement opposition to the Comelec rule. He deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt. The Comelec rule, of course, also deserves to be given a closer look. The benefits of limiting the commercial air time is clear and apparent and prevents candidates like Cayetano from drowning candidates with lesser means in a tsunami of political advertising on television and on radio. After all, by limiting the repetition of cute political commercials, the constitutional body may be protecting the public’s collective auditory mechanisms from damage and deterioration. That is a benefit. One really big benefit.
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