What is really going on with COMELEC?

Stars endorsing candidates asked to go on leave
By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Will Dolphy, Kris and Willie go missing from their shows soon?

Endorsing candidates has its price for actors, columnists and other mass media personalities: they would have to resign or take a leave from their TV shows or media outfits during the campaign period, based on the Fair Election Act, according to the poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).

The Commission on Elections says it is prepared to implement this provision of the law and will ask media personalities who are part of a politician’s campaign to take leave from work or compel their employers to make them take some time off, according to its law department director, Ferdinand Rafanan.

Rafanan said that “endorsing is campaigning,” when asked if being an endorser is equivalent to working for a candidate.

Section 6 (6.6) of the Fair Election Act or Republic Act 9006 states: “Any mass media columnist, commentator, announcer, reporter, on-air correspondent or personality who is a candidate for any elective public office or is a campaign volunteer for or employed or retained in any capacity by any candidate or political party shall be deemed resigned, if so required by their employer, or shall take a leave of absence from his/her work as such during the campaign period.”

The Comelec essentially repeated the same provision in its February 4 resolution that provided the implementing rules of RA 9006.

The provision is intended to prevent any candidate from benefitting unduly from the exposure of the media personality endorsing him or her.

PPCRV legal counsel Howard Calleja on Wednesday called attention to this requirement of the Fair Election Act, saying he was reminding media personalities that they have to abide by it by leaving their shows or media outfits.

“They’re saying they want change, so they should follow the law. They should not ask for an exception,” Calleja said in a phone interview.

Celebrities have become a staple in campaigns, with aspiring public officials using their endorsements to boost their names and gain popularity. Some even say that support from actors had been the secret weapon of victorious candidates.

The two leading contenders for the presidency, Senators Benigno Aquino III and Manuel Villar, have tapped many popular actors for their campaign. Aquino’s first TV commercial featured a bevy of TV stars from the top two networks, including his sister, TV host Kris Aquino. One of Villar’s popular advertisements features comedy king Dolphy, and he has also gotten TV host Willie Revillame and popular singer-actress Sarah Geronimo to endorse him.

According to Calleja, the media outfit also has to stop airing the shows of the entertainer, or the column of the columnist.

He added that media personalities and actors should also not claim that they made the endorsement commercial before the campaign period began, because the advertisement could still be aired in rallies or uploaded on the Internet, and thus could still be used to boost a candidate’s profile.

Calleja said that since the Comelec’s resolution implementing RA 9006 was promulgated only recently, the law would be in effect by next week.

Violation of the Fair Election Act is punishable by one to six years’ imprisonment.

The ProPinoy Project