Centerlaw supports Rappler’s suit against Comelec Chair over Presidential Debates Coverage


CenterLaw Release
Reference : Atty. Romel R. Bagares, Executive Director 09328798422

 

The Center for International Law (CenterLaw) supports Rappler’s move to hold into account before the Supreme Court Commission on Elections chair Andres Bautista’s arbitrary decision to limit coverage of Presidential debates only to big media companies.

“The media debates are a matter of public interest; therefore these should have been made available to as wide an audience and as many media channels as is possible,” said lawyer Romel R. Bagares, Executive Director of the non-profit dedicated to the promotion of free expression in the Philippines and in Asia.

He said that the Commission on Elections did not conduct an industry-wide consultation on the conduct of the official debates, but instead called only a few Manila-based media outfits to play host to these.

This, he said, was discriminatory and violates the constitutional principle of equal protection.

“Also, provincial media organizations were treated like they did not exist,” said Bagares, citing the first Comelec Presidential Debates conducted early this week in Cagayan De Oro City and hosted by GMA Network Inc. and the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“Local media organizations were initially barred from covering the event, but because they protested, they were let in provided they left outside their cameras and recording equipment.”

Earlier, the Rappler said in a statement that:

“Instead of ensuring a wider distribution of the debate, the Comelec Chairman granted exclusive broadcasting and livestreaming rights to hand-picked partners – to the detriment of all other media outlets, including the government-owned PTV4.

Online news groups were excluded from the MOA in terms of coverage and live video streaming rights – a MOA Rappler signed based on good faith assurances that access would be granted. That didn’t happen.”

Last Friday, the online news and media portal asked the Supreme Court to compel the Comelec to open the Presidential debates to all media outfits, and not just a few favored by the Comelec chair.

Bagares added that, “What the Comelec should have done is to call all our media organizations in the country, whether print, broadcast or web-based, to form a presidential debate committee. The media organizations should have been allowed to decide for themselves who would host which debates, but everyone should be welcome at the table, subject to reasonable coverage guidelines.”

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