Political Law

United Democratic Opposition vs Commission on Elections

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G.R. No. 56515 – 104 SCRA 17 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Equal Protection – Access to Media

In 1981, the Batasang Pambansa proposed amendments to the 1973 Constitution. The amendments were to be voted upon in a plebiscite for the people’s approval/disapproval. The YES vote was being advanced by Kilusan ng Bagong Lipunan – President Marcos’ political party. On the other hand, the NO vote was being advanced by the United Democratic Opposition (UNIDO). To ensure parity and equality, COMELEC issued Resolutions 1467-1469 which basically provided that there be equal opportunity, equal time and equal space on media use for campaigns for both sides. On 12 March 1981, Marcos campaigned for the YES vote via TV and radio from 9:30pm to 11:30pm. The same was broadcasted live by 26 TV stations and 248 radio stations nationwide. UNIDO petitioned before the COMELEC that they be granted the same opportunity as Marcos had pursuant to Resolutions 1467-1469. COMELEC denied the demand. UNIDO assailed the denial as a denial of the equal protection clause.

ISSUE: Whether or not UNIDO was denied equal protection by virtue of COMELEC’s denial of their request.

HELD: No. The SC ruled that UNIDO was not denied due process. They were also not denied equal protection. It is the considered view of the SC that when  Marcos conducted his ‘pulong-pulong’ or consultation with the people on March 12, 1981, he did so in his capacity as President/Prime Minister of the Philippines and not as the head of any political party. Under the Constitution, the ‘Prime Minister and the Cabinet shall be responsible . . . for the program of government and shall determine the guidelines of national policy’. In instances where the head of state is at the same time the president of the political party that is in power, it does not necessarily follow that he speaks with two voices when he dialogues with the governed. The president is accorded certain privileges that the opposition may not have. Further, the SC cannot compel TV stations and radio stations to give UNIDO free air time as they are not party to this case. UNIDO must sought contract with these TV stations and radio stations at their own expense.

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