Equal pay, fair play?

October 03, 2018

The move does not discriminate, but it doesn’t equalize either.

This is, quite simply, because rich politicians already have more financial resources than their poor rivals.

And so any privilege or concession given equitably to both could still lead to an uneven  political resource allocation.

The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill requiring higher discount rates for political advertisements in radio and television during elections, in a bid to give more candidates the chance to share their platforms to the public and pave the way for more informed voters.

Senate Bill No. 1985 was sponsored by Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, chair of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People's Participation, and was co-sponsored by Senator Richard Gordon. The measure was approved with 18 affirmative votes, zero negative votes and no abstention.

"Free expression of our people's will is better ventilated during an election period if all those who vie for the votes of our people are undeterred in delivering their messages to their voters, especially if the deterrence is the prohibitive cost," Pimentel said.

Pimentel said the bill seeks to amend the existing Fair Elections Act (RA 9006), by requiring higher discount rates for TV and radio ads provided by media outlets to bonafide candidates during an election period.

"The proposed discounted rates found in the bill will be as follows: from 30% to 40% for television, and from 20% to 30% for radio," he said.

The higher discount rates, Pimentel said, would be applied based on "the average of the published rates these media outlets charged their regular non-political or commercial advertisers during the last three (3) calendar years prior to an election."

"Relieved of the burden of the prohibitive costs of political advertisements, candidates and political parties participating in future elections will now have more opportunities to communicate their messages to the electorate in all forms of the so-called mainstream media," he said.

According to Pimentel, the bill would not necessarily prohibit media outlets from providing greater discounts to candidates. Instead, he said, the bill requires that the discount given to one candidate must be the same discount given to other candidates for the same position, "in the name of parity and fair play."

He also allayed fears that the discounts rates would afford well-funded candidates and political parties more exposure, pointing out that existing laws would still limit the maximum air time and print space for election candidates.

Pimentel said that political advertisements should be part of the social responsibility of media outlets, since the true purpose of these advertisements is "to educate the electorate about the qualifications, platforms, and track records of political candidates."

"Because of the importance and higher interest of society in educating the electorate on their political choices, it is just proper and correct that media outlets contribute to this common good," he said.

"We hope to make our people more aware of their choices on election day. The result of the elections, hopefully, will reflect a more discerning electorate to be emulated by future generations of Filipino voters," Pimentel said.