POSTSCRIPT / March 21, 2013 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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A tale of two TROs: RH, yes; RTV ads, no

RH LAW FROZEN: The Supreme Court has issued a Temporary Restraining Order on the controversial birth control law, but rejected another bid for a TRO on a rule limiting radio-TV election campaign advertising.

Voting 10-5, the Supreme Court froze for 120 days the Reproductive Health law (RA 10354) that requires, among many things, public health centers to hand out free condoms and schools to teach sex education.

The four-month TRO runs beyond the campaign period for the May 13 elections where the fate of lawmakers running for office may be affected by how they voted on the RH law.

Some Catholic sectors are campaigning against lawmakers who had voted for it. The Catholic Church and lay groups have opposed the RH law on several grounds, including its being allegedly unconstitutional.

Even if eventually upheld by the Supreme Court, the law is likely to be called back to the incoming 16th Congress for amendment.

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AD LIMIT: But in another move just two months before the May polls, the Supreme Court ignored a bid for a TRO while studying petitions to void a Commission on Elections rule limiting RTV campaign spending.

The poll body was accused of exceeding its rule-making powers and usurping the powers of Congress in setting a 120-minute limit on TV ads and a 180-minute limit on radio ads for national candidates.

While the tribunal allowed reelectionist Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano to join the case as intervenor, it cast aside his prayer for a TRO.

His action was included to the earlier petitions filed by broadcast giants GMA Network Corp. and ABC Development Corp., parent company of TV5.

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NARROWING GAP: On the average, a 30-seconder primetime TV ad costs about P500,000.

Limiting candidates’ spending for broadcast advertising to reasonable levels is fair and would redound to the public good.

This narrows the gap between the have’s and have-not’s among the candidates. It also lessens the campaign expenses that candidates might try to recover from public funds once elected.

The rule would spare the public from an over-bombardment of television and radio ads. It protects our sanity and keeps us from humming political jingles that entrap us in a “last song syndrome.”

This is probably why many were disappointed when Cayetano appeared to have taken up the cudgels for interests opposing the airtime cap.

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STUMBLING BLOCK: Cayetano has accused the Comelec of grave abuse of discretion, adding that the rule just will not achieve its goal of equalizing opportunities among candidates.

His assault on the Comelec rule appears to have backfired. Does the senator from Taguig find a level playing field disadvantageous to his political goals?

He could be a victim of public expectations. He would be among the first that people think would want a level playing field. But he gives the impression that he is out to win and to win big.

The airtime cap may be a stumbling block to his bid to land the No. 1 spot in the senatorial race – a “must” if his name is to float for whatever major stake he is eyeing in 2016.

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MONEY ISN’T ALL: At this point, it appears that the top spot is a toss-up between senators Chiz Escudero and Loren Legarda.

After the two sure winners, the remaining 10 slots are likely to be shared 5-5 or 6-4 between the Liberal Party-led administration coalition and the opposite United Nationalist Alliance.

Cayetano looks like he wants to break into the lead pack. He probably believes that a more aggressive broadcast exposure would close the gap between him and the two frontrunners.

But will bigger spending also generate public preference for the candidate?

It does not always work. Look at former Rep. Cynthia Villar, who has dropped out of the Magic 12 in the surveys despite her heavy TV ad spending starting from before the start of the official campaign period.

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TV IS KING: Studies show that, generally, senatorial candidates with more TV and radio ads fare better in surveys and eventually in the election itself.

Television has been gobbling up the bulk of campaign advertising. Print media lag behind although their rates are lower.

To even the playing field between rich and poor candidates, Comelec has limited RTV ad spending of senatorial candidates through resolution No. 9615 that Cayetano questioned before the Supreme Court last March 15.

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POE LEAPS: Here is polling firm StratPOLLS reporting that senatorial candidate Grace Poe made the biggest leap forward, from 17th to the third spot, in its latest survey.

It also reported that former Las Piñas congresswoman Villar fell from the “Magic 12.” Previously ranked 7th-8th, she is now in the 13th spot.

StratPOLLS said: “Poe was the better beneficiary of the Erap endorsements. The core votes of the late FPJ are still out there for her taking.”

It attributed Villar’s slippage to her saying that nurses in the Philippines do not need to be as skilled because they only want to be room nurses. She has since apologized, but the damage has been done.

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ERRATUM: In our last Postscript, we said: “If the President is not able to work out before May a resolution mutually satisfactory to Kuala Lumpur and the Sulu sultanate, that could mean:

“Goodbye to a Bangsamoro sub-state for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front replacing the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao created for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.”

The last part should have read “…replacing the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao created for the Moro NATIONAL Liberation Front.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 21, 2013)

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