‘Mockery of election law’

The Commission on Elections (Manila) has approved the filing of appropriate cases before the proper court against a former mayor of Tagbilaran City and two Boholano media personalities over alleged acts of making a mockery of election laws, the lawyer for the complainant has told Bohol media over the weekend.

Lawyer Lord “Popot” Marapao IV revealed that the law department of Comelec Manila has been directed to file the necessary information before the appropriate court after the poll body had resolved to adopt the joint resolution of the regional Comelec which in 2013 had found a probable cause to prosecute former city mayor Dan Neri Lim in relation to the alleged violation of Section 6 of Republic Act No. 9006 and Section 32 of Comelec Resolution No. 9615.

The case stemmed from Lim’s continued airing of his commentaries, sitting as a co-anchor of a radio program aired over station dyTR, despite the existence of election laws prohibiting political candidates to act as media practitioners during theelection period.

Also included in the suit were Ted Ayeng, co-host of the erstwhile program, Ang Mayor Sa Dakbayan, which used to be aired over dyTR every Saturday from 8 a.m to 10 a.m., and Lito Responte, former general manager of dyTR.

In an en banc resolution promulgated on August 10, 2017, the Comelec Manila had found weight on the complaint filed by Alfonso R. Damalerio II, giving the go-signal to the legal department of Comelec Manila to proceed with the filing of the case against Lim, Ayeng, and Responte.

“Upon gleaning on the facts aforestated, respondent Atty. Dan Neri Lim, a candidate for Representative of the First District of Bohol, blatantly ignored the specific provisions of law concerning the Fair Elections Act. Despite the first complaint filed by the complainant, respondent Atty. Lim continued to broadcast on air his radio program, wherein respondent Ted Ayeng is the anchorman,” the Comelec Resolution, docketed as E.O. No. 13-051, stated.

“The defense of respondent Lito Responte, the station manager of dyTR that he had no hand on the offense possibly committed by the other two respondents, does not hold water. The provisions of Section 7 of Resolution No. 9615 in relation with RA 9006 is very clear on this regard that the station manager should be held responsible,” the Comelec added.

The Comelec Resolution, approved by Comelec Chairman J. Andres D. Bautista and Commissioners Christian Robert S. Lim, Al A. Parreño, Luie Tito F. Guia, Arthur D. Lim, Ma. Rowena Amelia V. Guanzon, and Sheriff M. Abas,pointed out that the respondents had “taken advantage in using their radio program  against their opponents, thereby a violation of the Fair Elections Act.”

If proven guilty as charged, Lim could face perpetual disqualification from seeking public office and he might also be stripped of his right to vote, according to Damalerio’s lawyer.

Consequently, Ayeng and Responte, also if proven guilty after trial, would also be stripped of their license to engage in radio broadcast, and station dyTR, could also face penalty, according to Marapao, Bohol’s most sought-after legal counsel, when pressed to comment on the possible ramifications of the case for the two media practitioners.

BACKGROUND OF THE CASE

Ayeng was the co-anchorman of the ex-mayor’s weekly program, Ang Mayor sa Dakbayan, used to be aired every Saturday morning over radio station dyTR.

Before the 2013 election, Lim, despite being the city mayor, had been acting as the main anchor of the said radio program.

When Lim filed his certificate of candidacy to challenge incumbent First District Rep. Rene Relampagos in the May 2013 elections, the ex-mayor was deemed resign from his usual radio tirades over dyTR as mandated by Comelec Resolution No. 9615.

But according to the Comelec, Lim “blatantly ignored specific provisions of law concerning the Fair Elections Act.”

Section 32 of Comelec Resolution 9165 states that “Any mass media columnist, commentator, announcer, reporter, on-air correspondent, or personality who is a candidate for any elective public office, a party-list nominee, or is a campaign volunteer for or employed or retained in any capacity by any candidate or 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…”

Election offense, under Section 35 of the same resolution, provides that “any violation of RA 9006 and these Rules shall constitute an election offense punishable under the first and second paragraph of Section 264 of the Omnibus Election Code in addition to administrative liability, whenever applicable…”

All over the Philippines, it was only in Bohol that a media personality, in the person of ex-mayor Lim, who continued handling a radio program despite the fact that he was a candidate for a political post.

Lim and Ayeng, however, argued that their program was a block-time purchased by the National People’s Coalition (NPC) for the promotion of the party’s candidates in the May 2013 elections.

But the Comelec said such reasoning was immaterial to the case because the issue boiled down to the fact that ex-mayor Lim was a political candidate, and the Comelec had banned him from involving in media-related activities.

The Comelec had considered ex-mayor Lim as a “media practitioner” since he was performing “similar functions” of a professional radio broadcaster.

The Comelec also said that Responte should be held responsible for allowing the two to continue broadcasting despite Comelec ban.

Responte argued that the program was not station-produced but a block-time program in which a disclaimer is aired before and after the program. The intro disclaimer goes like this: “Mga higala, ang mosunod nga programa usa ka binayran. Ang mga opinion og komentaryo nga ipadayag iya lang sa magsisibya ug walay labot ang estasyon,” while the exit disclaimer says: “Ang programa nga inyong nabati usa ka binayran. Ang mga opinion og komentaryo nga gipadayag iya lang sa magsisibya ug walay labot ang estasyon.”

But the Comelec said the disclaimer does not hold water on Responte’s defense.

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