Comelec to study if Pacquiao-Bradley fight violates election law

Jess Diaz, Shiela Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Still reeling from the uproar over his gay slur, Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao may be cited for violation of election rules if his coming bout with Timothy Bradley would be found to give him undue advantage – in terms of airtime – over his rivals in the senatorial race.

This was the response of Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista to a comment by senatorial aspirant and former Akbayan lawmaker Walden Bello that Pacquiao should postpone the fight with Bradley because it would give the boxer “tremendous media mileage,” and ultimately undue advantage over other candidates.

Bautista said yesterday they would check the details of the fight to determine if it goes against the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Fair Elections Act.

But the Comelec appeared not inclined to pursue charges against Pacquiao on its own even if the widely covered bout falls on April 10 (Manila time), or exactly a month before the elections.

“We will look into it, if and when a formal complaint is filed. We have to look at the Fair Elections Act as well as rules re campaign expenses, these are the related issues,” he said.

Asked why the Comelec would not exercise its motu propio power on Pacquiao, Bautista explained they “might also be faulted for why we are picking on him.”

“We all know that he’s a national figure, he has brought pride and glory to the country,” he added.

Bautista admitted it is “speculative” to say that Pacquiao’s fight and its coverage would violate election rules. He added media exposure – especially in Pacquiao’s case – could be a “gray area” in the rules.

In his statement, Walden maintained a Pacquiao bout with Bradley would surely exceed the airtime limit of 120 minutes in every television station and 180 minutes in each radio station.

Under the IRR, the prohibited forms of election propaganda include “theater, through television station, or any public forum, any movie, cinematography or documentary, including concern, or any type of performance portraying the life or biography of a candidate, or in which a character is portrayed by an actor or media personality who is himself or herself a candidate.”

Bello said celebrities, radio and television personalities, and even media persons are asked to go on leave if they run for public office so they would not have an edge over other candidates in terms of media exposure.

He said candidates endorsing commercial products on television, radio and other media platforms are also told to stop such endorsements.

Bautista asked Bello to file a formal complaint with the Comelec so that the poll body could discuss the boxing champion’s case in its sessions.

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