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Friday, February 12, 2010

GMA 7 talents endorsing candidates told to go on leave

Television network GMA 7 yesterday took the initiative to call on its talents and showbiz personalities to take a leave of absence if they continue to endorse candidates or political parties during the campaign period.

In a statement, GMA 7 said they have advised their talents to take a leave even if the taping of their participation in the political ads was done before the campaign period started.

The television network added they would also stop airing political ads that showed some of their talents endorsing a candidate or a political party during the campaign period.

“(The) network’s talents who appeared in political ads or advocacy plugs before Feb. 9 are advised to notify the candidates concerned or those responsible for placing these political plugs not to air them during the campaign period,”GMA 7 network said in the statement.

The statement was issued by GMA 7 in the effort to placate increasing concerns over the issues of showbiz personalities endorsing candidates and political parties during the campaign period.

Sectors led by poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) said Republic Act 9006 or the Fair Election Act makes it mandatory for showbiz and media personalities to take a leave of absence from television shows or media outfits while endorsing a candidate or political party.

Malacañang said the PPCRV assessed the issue correctly.

“The PPCRV call appears to be supported both by the law and the Comelec and if that is the case, then it should be heeded,” deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said.

Under the Fair Election Act, “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.”

Television network ABS-CBN, for its part, clarified the law would only apply to their regular employees who are endorsing candidates or political parties.

“The provision of the law cited by the PPCRV and Comelec (Commission on Elections) that requires media personalities to either resign or go on leave applies to employees only. Talents are not employees of the network and, therefore, the said provision does not apply to them,” ABS-CBN said in a statement.

The television giant, however, said they have a strict policy against talents using airtime to endorse candidates.

Notwithstanding the provisions of the Fair Election Act, the Comelec yesterday said there is no need for showbiz and media personalities to take a leave of absence.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento explained the law generally applies to political candidates who are showbiz personalities themselves.

Sarmiento said these individuals, who can be a candidate, a campaign volunteer or endorser, “shall be deemed resigned” if so required by their employers.

“There are nuances on that issue... There are many gray areas like if a sibling or a relative of a candidate is a celebrity and then we’ll say that they are endorsing a candidate... we might be violating some of their freedoms there,” he said.

“We have to balance the freedom involved of the celebrity endorsers and, at the same time, the election aspect, like will it level the playing field,” Sarmiento said.

Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal also said “a close examination of the provisions” of the law does not require media personalities to take a leave during the campaign period.

Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, on the other hand, said the poll body is studying how to implement the rules on media personalities campaigning for candidates.

Ferrer added the Comelec would come up with rules to avoid confusion.

Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, presidential candidate of the Liberal Party (LP), said he would file a petition before the Supreme Court to clarify the issue.

Aquino, the only brother of popular actress and television host Kris Aquino-Yap, said it would be unfair for other showbiz personalities who volunteered to campaign for politicians without any talent fee.

If the intention of the call was to level the playing field, Aquino said this would not occur since there are candidates, including him, who could not afford to pay the talents and services of celebrities.

“I don’t think that is the intention of the law so we need to clarify this before the Supreme Court,” he said.

Aquino claimed there is a long list of celebrities who volunteered to endorse him but all he could give was a simple “thank you” and his dealing with them was “aboveboard.”

“(My endorsers) are not paid and they are even the ones spending for their transportation, they are the ones who feed me and during our tapings, they lend the equipment. This is really a people’s campaign and it is pure volunteerism on their part,” he said.

Aquino said it would be unfair for the celebrities endorsing him to take a leave of absence “because they will lose a lot.”

Aquino stressed the issues must be defined correctly in fairness to the celebrities concerned.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, however, said the issue would now level the playing field in favor of Gilbert Teodoro, candidate of the administration Lakas-Kampi-CMD.




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