In Defense of Celebrities Versus (Un)Fair Election Act
This euphemistically named Fair Election Act was authored by some political IDIOTS who believed that the Filipino voters are a bunch of STUPID people!
In a free society, no one must be singled out by any law, edict or directive. But in this country, there is a law that prohibits celebrities and media personalities to voluntarily campaign for their candidates. This law is euphemistically named Fair Elections Act or Republic Act No. 9006. I object to certain provisions of this Act because it deprives a particular group of individuals of their right to free speech and to campaign for their political choices.
Section 6 (6.6) of the Fair Election Act or Republic Act No. 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.”
I have tackled this issue in my previous blog wherein I stated the following:
“While this Fair Election Act purportedly seeks to promote fairness in electoral campaigns and processes, it deprives celebrities and media personalities of their rights to free speech and their jobs. Why punish these media personalities for their success and social status? For just being a “campaign volunteer” for any candidate, media personalities and celebrities will be asked to go on leave, otherwise they would face the full force of the law. Yes, apart from temporarily losing their job, violators of this Act may also face a criminal case as stated under Section 13, paragraph 3 of the Act.
“Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who was the Senate President at the time this Act was passed and approved in 2001, along with Feliciano Belmonte Jr., who was the House Speaker and the authors of House Bill No. 9000 and Senate Bill No. 1742, are traitors of our liberty and rights. These political mammals who sacrificed “a little liberty” to “gain a little security” do not deserve our votes!”
I have this critic named “Roi” who says the law does not penalize anyone for endorsing or campaigning for his/her candidate. This critics argues: “the Fair Election Act does not state that”any media personalities or celebrities who endorse and campaign for their candidates may be penalized”. No. It simply says – in layman’s terms – take a leave of absence if you will campaign and endorse a candidate.”
The following is my reply:
Section 13 par. 3 of the Act states the penal provision, to wit: “Violation of this Act and the rules and regulations of the COMELEC issued to implement this Act shall be an election offense punishable under the first and second paragraphs of Section 264 of the Omnibus Election Code (Batas Pambansa Blg. 881).”
This means that you must apply the provisions of this Act in relation to Sec. 264 of B.P. 881. The following is what the first and second paragraphs of B.P. 881 state:
“Sec. 264. Penalties. – Any person found guilty of any election offense under this Code shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years and shall not be subject to probation. In addition, the guilty party shall be sentenced to suffer disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage. If he is a foreigner, he shall be sentenced to deportation which shall be enforced after the prison term has been served. Any political party found guilty shall be sentenced to pay a fine of not less than ten thousand pesos, which shall be imposed upon such party after criminal action has been instituted in which their corresponding officials have been found guilty.
“In case of prisoner or prisoners illegally released from any penitentiary or jail during the prohibited period as provided in Section 261, paragraph (n) of this Code, the director of prisons, provincial warden, keeper of the jail or prison, or persons who are required by law to keep said prisoner in their custody shall, if convicted by a competent court, be sentenced to suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its maximum period if the prisoner or prisoners so illegally released commit any act of intimidation, terrorism of interference in the election.”
This means that any mass media columnist, commentator, announcer, reporter, on-air correspondent or personality who violates “this Act and the rules and regulations of the COMELEC issued to implement this Act” may be punished with “imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years and shall not be subject to probation.”
So apart from the above mentioned provisions, Section 6(6.6) of R.A. 9006 provides that “any mass media columnist, commentator, announcer, reporter, on-air correspondent or personality” who is a candidate for any elective public office (I have no problem with this) or a campaign volunteer for (this is the most important part of the Section) or employed or retained in any capacity by any elective candidate 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.”
But my critic claims that I “slightly misinterpreted the law” and overreacted. He asks: “Does the law say “celebrities – once you endorse, you commit a crime”? Does it say so?”
Here’s my reply:
It is clear that there is no legal precedent that may explain this particular matter, but that’s the provision of the Act, otherwise the law is toothless. What’s the use of this law if it’s still OK for a media personality to continue with his/her show or keep his/her job while voluntarily campaigning for his/her candidate without taking a leave? Is this not in violation of the Act?
My point is this, everybody has the right to endorse his/her candidate regardless of his/her social status. Kris has the right to campaign for her brother and Mar Roxas without being asked to go on leave or give up her job. Willie Revillame also has the right to campaign for Manny Villar and keep his show. Everybody has the right to campaign for his/her candidate and there should be no law banning such right. But that’s the contentious provision of Section 6(6.6) of the Act! It compels “any mass media columnist, commentator, announcer, reporter, on-air correspondent or personality” to go on leave for voluntarily “campaigning” for his/her candidate. The Act forces/coerces these media personalities who campaign for or support their political choices to “temporarily” give up their job.
Also the point is this: why is it that the Iglesia Ni Cristo can endorse and even impose upon its members to “block vote” and Makati Business Club can support candidates without the risk of losing their church or businesses, while media personalities are deprived of this same right? Why single out a particular group of people? Well, you can simply say if the government imposed the same law on religions, that will be a violation of their religious rights! Fine. But what about the right to free speech of media personalities?
While the doctrine of “separation of church and state” led to peaceful coexistence among religions, I do believe that the rights of an individual is paramount to the rights of any entity, mystical or social, juridical or political. In a true republican society, the standard of value is the individual. The right of an individual must not be lower in degree or extent than the right of a church or a group. We cannot demand the government to deprive other sectors (e.i. the media personalities) of their right to endorse or campaign for their candidates. This is the essence of individual rights and equality under the law, concepts that we borrowed from the Americans. What does this law mean? It means that the government would like to protect the people against their stupidity and idiocy! This law is funny and pathetic.
If the government sought to ban “celebrity influence” by passing this Fair Election Act, then it must also prevent religions and organizations from endorsing candidates! Who’s more influential, Kris Aquino or the high priest of the Iglesia ni Cristo? Who’s more influential, Dolphy or the high priest of Ang Dating Daan or Cardinal Rosales? It is pretty clear that the intent of this law is to eliminate “celebrity influence” so to allegedly level the playing field, but what about the biggest king-makers in the country such as religions, businessmen, organizations, etc.? Yes, those who authored this unconstitutional law were afraid of religions and big organizations. Yes, this law seeks to single out top media personalities and celebrities simply because they are successful.
It is pretty clear that the target of this non-objective, unconstitutional Act is the freedom of a certain group of individuals- their freedom to campaign for their candidates and to speak freely without the risk of being ask to “go on leave” or give up their jobs. Anyone who does not understand the evil of this Act is an IDIOT!