The Philippine Constitution was crafted in 1987, after Ferdinand Marcos was ousted from Power and Corazon Aquino took the reins. After Marcos had seized power in the early 70’s (he was elected in the 60’s, but did not relinquish power), when he was finally thrown out in 1986, a new Constitution was crafted, and a new age of Philippine democracy was ushered in. Much of the 1987 Constitution was patterned after the US Constitution. Of course, the Philippine Constitution is not a duplication of the US Constitution, but many of the ideals and rights in the US Constitution were put into the Philippine Constitution as well.
One thing that the Philippine Constitution specifically enumerates is the Right to Free Speech.
Last week, the Comelec, which is the Philippine Commission on Elections, issued a ruling that, in my view limits the right to free speech for certain citizens of the Philippines. The ruling stated that in the coming election (May 2010), any celebrities who endorse political candidates must take a leave of absence from their TV shows, Movies, or whatever. Just to be clear, if a celebrity comes out in support of a certain candidate, they may no longer appear on TV, in the Movies, or other such venues. What about freedom of speech? What about political freedom?
I have never been one to follow what celebrities say when it comes to politics. I don’t really care who George Clooney or Alec Baldwin say I should support – frankly, I think it is none of their business who I support. However, they have every right to support the candidate of their choice, as do I. I do not believe that if George Clooney supports Al Gore he should have to stop making movies! One of the things I find very unfair about this is that it is crafted only for celebrities. For example, Lucio Tan is a very rich man in the Philippines. He is the owner of Philippine Airlines and other businesses here. He is not a celebrity in the way that I would define it – i.e. and actor or such. If he comes out in support of a certain Presidential candidate, should he have to step down from his role in the businesses that he owns? No, in my opinion he should not. Under the law in the Philippines, he should not. However, if an actor comes out to support a candidate, he must then relinquish his career until after the election is over? That, my friend, is not free speech.
As soon as I heard this, I said something to Feyma. What about Kris Aquino? Kris Aquino is the celebrity daughter of former President Corazon Aquino. She is on many TV shows and such. Her brother, Noynoy Aquino is running for President, and is among the front runners for the post. Now, let me say, I am not a fan of either of these two. However, of course Kris Aquino would be supporting her brother, he is family after all. Should she have to now take a leave of absence from all of her TV shows until after the election? In my opinion, no.
Here is another interesting question that is also related to the Aquinos. Kris Aquino is married to James Yap. Yap is a basketball star in the Philippines. I assume that Yap is also supporting Noynoy Aquino, since Noynoy is his brother-in-law. Does Yap have to take a leave of absence from his basketball career? Is a basketball star a celebrity? In my mind, a basketball star is a type of a celebrity, so this ruling should apply to him as well, if it is to be enforced fairly.
How about this one? What about Manny Pacquiao? Pacquiao is certainly a celebrity. In addition to his boxing career he has been a singer, actor, commercial endorser and such. He is also a Candidate, and head of a new Political Party. So, it’s safe to assume that he has endorsed himself in his Congressional race, right? However, he is having a fight in the USA in March. Should that fight be banned from airing on Philippine TV stations? If that happened, there would be an uproar. However, under the Comelec ruling, it would seem that it would be illegal for the Pacquiao fight to be shown.
Frankly, I think this whole “celebrity endorsement ruling” is just stupid. I think it is anti-democracy. Nine times out of ten, I am not for the same candidates that the celebrity is for anyway, but I would strongly defend the rights of every person, regardless of what their employment is, to endorse any candidate that they feel they should support.
That, my friends, is simply Freedom of Speech.