April 23, 2018, 12:32 am
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Political ads

WHILE Filipinos were busy preparing for Christmas and Congress itself was rushing last-minute action on important legislation that needed to be passed -- the national budget, the presidential request for an extension of martial law in Mindanao, and the tax reform bill -- the House of Representatives even took the time to pass on final reading a bill that would benefit its members and most politicians in the coming elections.

We refer to House Bill 6604 regulating the rates of political advertisements in media.

With Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas leading the proponents, the bill aims to amend RA 9006 or the Fair Elections Act, to provide “equal opportunity among qualified candidates to avail” themselves of affordable political advertisements.

They wanted to impose on media outlets to grant registered political parties and bona fide candidates a discount of 50 percent for political propaganda on television, radio and print. But how about social media?

The House leadership intends to implement this proposal thru the Commission on Elections. 

HB 6604 gives the Comelec the power to regulate political propaganda expenses and prevent media outlets from increasing rates to more than the average rates charged to regular advertisers one year prior to the election period.

Fariñas observed that under the law, media entities are allowed to provide political advertisers a discount rate of 30 percent for TV, 20 percent for radio, and 10 percent for print. He pointed out that to offset this losses, media owners increase their rates by as much as 100 percent.

Congress leaders are correct in saying that candidates who have meager campaign resources tend to look for donors just to pay for their huge advertising expenses, resulting in indebtedness to their campaign contributors for the duration of their term.

Fariñas stressed, “This could provide an avenue for political corruption wherein politicians would be making decisions benefiting their sponsors while foregoing the interests of the public.” 

It is a fact that the two biggest television networks in the country -- ABS-CBN and GMA 7 -- do have a heyday every election year; they report their biggest advertising revenues during this season. As far as the broadcast media is concerned, regulation may be acceptable. 

One thing that is questionable in this Alvarez-Fariñas bill is that it is essentially a legislation that would directly benefit its proponents. It will also benefit President Duterte, the highest approving authority on lawmaking, and his party, the PDP-Laban.

And while the bill purportedly wanted legislators to be free from political debt so as to push only the people’s interests, experience tells us that this is no guarantee of good and exemplary behavior among politicians when they are already elected.
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