The Nacionalista Party (NP) on Monday appeared before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to oppose a petition filed by television network ABS-CBN which asked copies of poll documents indicating the number of votes received by a candidate in a precinct.
Awarding a copy of the election return — which shows votes of each candidate in a precinct — and the COC — which contains the total votes obtained by each candidate — to the network would be "discriminatory" to other media entities, NP lawyer Joel Bodegon said in a hearing held on Monday.
His argument was countered by ABS-CBN chief legal counsel Maximilian Joseph Uy.
As one of the biggest television networks in the country, it's obvious that the network should be one of the media entities entitled to a copy of the ERs and the COCs, Uy said.
The ER is electronically printed by the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine which shows the date of the election, the province, municipality, and the precinct in which it is held and the votes for each candidate in the precinct. The COC is a document which contains the total votes obtained by each candidate in a city, municipality, district, or province.
Section 19 of Republic Act 9369 states that the 21st to 24th copies of the ER would be given to national broadcast or print media entities "in view of propagating the copies to the widest extent possible."
Section 21 of the same law provides that the 26th and 27th copies of the COC should be given to local broadcast or print media entities also in view of the same purpose.
However, Bodegonsaid that the "bigness" of one entity is never an argument.
"In fact, it is a counterargument to allowing the petition, because you also have to allow other media organizations," he told GMANews.TV in an interview after the hearing.
The lawyer added that the network is not "worthy" of the ER and COC because it is not "balanced" in its presentation of news.
The NP has always criticized ABS-CBN for supposedly supporting Liberal Party standard bearer Benigno Aquino III, brother of actress and talk show host Kris Aquino and rival of NP bet Senator Manuel Villar. The network has repeatedly denied the accusation.
Businesswoman Maria Therese Quesada, who also appeared before the Comelec to oppose the petition, likewise said that ABS-CBN was biased in its coverage of the elections.
"ABS-CBN has not been balanced it is reporting of the elections... a lot of the celebrities with ABS-CBN are related to one particular candidate," she said.
Quesada said was appealing to the commission as a private citizen.
She said she came to the hearing after she read an announcement in the newspaper saying that the poll body would be conducting a hearing on ABS-CBN's petition.
Uy, however, denied the allegation. "We are not for one candidate," he said during the hearing.
For his part, Commissioner Lucenito Tagle noted that ABS-CBN would automatically have a copy of the results through the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), of which it is a member.
The results of the elections per precinct are expected to be posted by the Comelec on a secure website right after voting closes and will also be available on servers provided for several accredited parties, the KBP, and other entities.
Uy said that their petition was done to make sure that they would be able to get a copy of the results as soon as possible, without any delays.
The Comelec has ordered Uy to provide Bodegon and Quesada with a copy of their petition. It has also set another hearing for the case on Friday.
Meanwhile, the poll body has submitted the petitions to conduct early voting for the media and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanano (ARMM) for resolution. - RJAB Jr., GMANews.TV