Ex-Bohol mayor sued at Comelec for media work during election season

BOHOL, Philippines – For allegedly sitting as radio host while at the same time a candidate for congressman, a former city mayor in Bohol has been sued at the Commission on Elections (Comelec), and may be perpetually disqualified to run again for public office if he is proven guilty after a full-blown trial.

In an en banc resolution promulgated on August 10, 2017, a copy of which was obtained by Rappler, the Comelec national office in Manila sought the filing of a formal case before the appropriate court against former city mayor Dan Neri Lim, who allegedly hosted a radio commentary program during the 2013 election period, an act strictly prohibited by election laws such as Republic Act No. 9006 and Comelec Resolution No. 9615.

Lim, a lawyer by profession, was the mayor of Bohol's capital city of Tagbilaran from 2004 to 2013. After completing a 9-year term, he then challenged the incumbency of Third District representative Rene Lopez Relampagos, a former governor of Bohol.

Two media personalities in Bohol – Ted Ayeng, co-anchor of Lim in their erstwhile program, "Ang Mayor sa Dakbayan," aired every Saturday over station DYTR, and Lito Responte, broadcaster and former general manager of the station – were also made respondents in the case filed by Alfonso R. Damalerio II, represented by lawyer Lord "Popot" R. Marapao IV, who noted the two mediamen could lose their license to broadcast, if proven guilty.

Earlier, in November 2013, the Cebu-based regional Comelec office found a probable cause in a suit which according to Marapao offers a clear example of "mockery of election laws."

It took nearly 4 years before the Comelec in Manila adopted the provincial Comelec office's ruling, which had recommended the filing of appropriate cases against Lim, Ayeng, and Responte.

“Upon gleaning on the facts aforestated, respondent Atty. Dan Neri Lim, a candidate for Representative of the First District of Bohol, blatantly ignored the specific provisions of law concerning the Fair Elections Act," according to the Comelec en banc resolution docketed as E.O. No. 13-051. "Despite the first complaint filed by the complainant, respondent Atty. Lim continued to broadcast on air his radio program, wherein respondent Ted Ayeng is the anchorman."

The resolution, approved by Comelec chairman Andres Bautista and commissioners Christian Robert Lim, Al Parreño, Luie Tito Guia, Arthur Lim, Rowena Guanzon, and Sheriff Abas, pointed out that the respondents had “taken advantage in using their radio program against their opponents."

Section 6 of RA 9006 and Section 32 of Comelec Resolution No. 9615 prohibit political candidates to act as media practitioners during the election period.

Section 35 of said Comelec Resolution states that “any violation of RA 9006 and these Rules shall constitute an election offense punishable under the first and second paragraph of Section 264 of the Omnibus Election Code."

Under Section 264 of the Omnibus Election Code, offenders "shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than 6 years and shall not be subject to probation."

"In addition, the guilty party shall be sentenced to suffer disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage," the Code says.

In their defense, Lim and Ayeng argued their program in question was financed by the National People's Coalition (NPC), aimed at promoting the party's candidates in the May 2013 polls.

The Comelec disagreed, however, saying Lim was a political candidate, thus he was barred from engaging in media-related activities.

The Comelec noted that Lim was considered a “media practitioner” since he was performing “similar functions” of a professional radio broadcaster.

Responte, on the other hand, told the poll body that the radio program of Lim and Ayeng were not station-produced.

But the Comelec said the radio management remains liable even in a so-called block-time program. – Rappler.com