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Telecommunications and Broadcast Attorneys of the Philippines, Inc. v. Commission on Elections, 289 SCRA 337, G.R. No. 132922 April 21, 1998

10 Jan

En Banc

[MENDOZA, J.]

FACTS: Section 92 of Batas Pambansa (BP) Blg. 881, as amended, reads as follows:

Sec. 92. Comelec time. — The commission shall procure radio and television time to be known as “Comelec Time” which shall be allocated equally and impartially among the candidates within the area of coverage of all radio and television stations. For this purpose, the franchise of all radio broadcasting and television stations are hereby amended so as to provide radio or television time, free of charge, during the period of the campaign.

Petitioners contend that §92 of BP Blg. 881 violates the due process clause and the eminent domain provision of the Constitution by taking airtime from radio and television broadcasting stations without payment of just compensation. Petitioners claim that the primary source of revenue of the radio and television stations is the sale of airtime to advertisers and that to require these stations to provide free airtime is to authorize a taking which is not “a de minimis temporary limitation or restraint upon the use of private property.” According to petitioners, in 1992, the GMA Network, Inc. lost P22,498,560.00 in providing free airtime of one (1) hour every morning from Mondays to Fridays and one (1) hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. (prime time) and, in this year’s elections, it stands to lose P58,980,850.00 in view of COMELEC’s requirement that radio and television stations provide at least 30 minutes of prime time daily for the COMELEC Time.

 

ISSUE#1: Does GMA Network, Inc. have the standing to bring the constitutional question on the assailed provision?

HELD#1YES.

[W]e have decided to take this case since the other petitioner, GMA Network, Inc., appears to have the requisite standing to bring this constitutional challenge. Petitioner operates radio and television broadcast stations in the Philippines affected by the enforcement of §92 of B.P. Blg. 881 requiring radio and television broadcast companies to provide free airtime to the COMELEC for the use of candidates for campaign and other political purposes. Petitioner claims that it suffered losses running to several million pesos in providing COMELEC Time in connection with the 1992 presidential election and the 1995 senatorial election and that it stands to suffer even more should it be required to do so again this year. Petitioner’s allegation that it will suffer losses again because it is required to provide free airtime is sufficient to give it standing to question the validity of §92.

ISSUE#2: Is Section 92 of BP. Blg. 881 violative of the due process clause and unlawful taking of private property for public use without just compensation?

HELD#2: NO.

Petitioners’ argument is without merit. All broadcasting, whether by radio or by television stations, is licensed by the government. Airwave frequencies have to be allocated as there are more individuals who want to broadcast than there are frequencies to assign. A franchise is thus a privilege subject, among other things, to amendment by Congress in accordance with the constitutional provision that “any such franchise or right granted . . . shall be subject to amendment, alteration or repeal by the Congress when the common good so requires.”

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