Leveling the Playing Field

Conducting a decent and respectable electoral campaign is expensive.

At the start of 2019, an influx of political advertisements has raided our television sets, airwaves and social media feeds. It appears that this will become a trend until election day, even as the campaign period for national and local positions has not yet officially begun. A Supreme Court ruling in 2009 (dismissal of disqualification case against former Mayor Rosalinda Penera of Sta. Monica for pre-mature campaigning) has confirmed that premature campaigning is not considered an election offense and does not violate the Automated Election Law.

Conducting a decent and respectable electoral campaign is expensive. The cost of television and radio spots range from tens of thousands to millions of pesos. Hiring experienced strategists and staff come at a hefty price. 

For candidates with deep pockets, finances may not be a major issue. For candidates with limited resources, money presents a major campaign challenge.

Republic Act (RA) No. 9006, otherwise known as the Fair Elections Act, was passed into law to ensure the conduct of fair election practices. However, some of its provisions no longer promote a level playing field for candidates, especially at the national level. 

Section 5: Election Surveys 

The publication and mass media reporting of election surveys do not intend to provide substantial voter education on the candidates' profiles, platform of government, and stand on pressing issues. Instead, it has become a propaganda tool to condition the minds of the voting public.

The conduct of surveys is necessary for candidates to measure their performance against competition. However, there is no necessity to publicize survey results as this undermines the independence in decision-making of the voting public. Hence, I propose that the publication and mass media reporting of election surveys be banned 1 year prior to election day. 

Section 6: Equal Access to Media Time and Space 

There may be equal access for candidates to use media time and space during elections. However, there is no equitable access for all candidates to have media exposure during elections.

Placing advertisements in print, television or radio is expensive. It constrains candidates who have scarce resources from introducing themselves adequately to the voting public. Due to existing limitations in air/TV time, candidates engage in a competition for most catchy ad, instead of most educational/informative ad. The skill desired for a legislative position such as Senator calls for in-depth knowledge on issues, not attractive physical attributes. Thus, it is time to revisit Section 6 of R.A No. 9006 to provide fair media space for all candidates without prejudice to their financial capabilities.

Our votes should be based on a clear understanding of the candidates’ vision, plans and programs for the country. Media space provides an opportunity for candidates to educate the public on their platform of governance. 

However, experience tells us that election/campaign rules have been circumvented to favor the rich and heavily bankrolled candidates. Following the true spirit of fairness, reforms to the Fair Elections Act should be adopted to provide an opportunity for financially challenged but deserving candidates to be competitive.

Now is the time to level the playing field!

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TheLOBBYiST.
About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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