Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Philippine Press Institute, Inc. vs. COMELEC

Facts: Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with prayer for the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order. PPI, a non-stock, non-profit organization of newspaper and magazine publishers, asks us to declare Comelec Resolution No. 2772 unconstitutional and void on the ground that it violates the prohibition imposed by the Constitution upon the government, and any of its agencies, against the taking of private property for public use without just compensation. Petitioner also contends that the 22 March 1995 letter directives of Comelec requiring publishers to give free "Comelec Space" and at the same time process raw data to make it camera-ready, constitute impositions of involuntary servitude, contrary to the provisions of Section 18 (2), Article III of the 1987 Constitution. Finally, PPI argues that Section 8 of Comelec Resolution No. 2772 is violative of the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press and of expression.

On the other hand, The Office of the Solicitor General filed its Comment on behalf of respondent Comelec alleging that Comelec Resolution No. 2772 does not impose upon the publishers any obligation to provide free print space in the newspapers as it does not provide any criminal or administrative sanction for non-compliance with that Resolution. According to the Solicitor General, the questioned Resolution merely established guidelines to be followed in connection with the procurement of "Comelec space," the procedure for and mode of allocation of such space to candidates and the conditions or requirements for the candidate's utilization of the "Comelec space" procured. At the same time, however, the Solicitor General argues that even if the questioned Resolution and its implementing letter directives are viewed as mandatory, the same would nevertheless be valid as an exercise of the police power of the State. The Solicitor General also maintains that Section 8 of Resolution No. 2772 is a permissible exercise of the power of supervision or regulation of the Comelec over the communication and information operations of print media enterprises during the election period to safeguard and ensure a fair, impartial and credible election.

Issue: Whether or not Resolution No. 2772 issued by respondent Commission on Elections is valid.

Held: Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition is GRANTED in part and Section 2 of Resolution No. 2772 in its present form and the related letter-directives dated 22 March 1995 are hereby SET ASIDE as null and void, and the Temporary Restraining Order is hereby MADE PERMANENT. The Petition is DISMISSED in part, to the extent it relates to Section 8 of Resolution No. 2772. No pronouncement as to costs.

Section 2 of Resolution No. 2772, in its present form and as interpreted by Comelec in its 22 March 1995 letter directives, purports to require print media enterprises to "donate" free print space to Comelec. As such, Section 2 suffers from a fatal constitutional vice and must be set aside and nullified. To the extent it pertains to Section 8 of Resolution No. 2772, the Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition must be dismissed for lack of an actual, justiciable case or controversy. 

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