GH.docx - Freedom of Expression ABS CBN v. COMELEC G.R. No....

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Freedom of ExpressionABS CBN v. COMELEC G.R. No. 133486Facts:A Petition for Certiorari raised by ABS-CBN under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court assailing Commission onElections (Comelec) en banc Resolution No. 98-14191 dated April 21, 1998. In the said Resolution, thepoll body RESOLVED to approve the issuance of a restraining order to stop ABS-CBN or any other groups,its agents or representatives from conducting such exit survey and to authorize the Honorable Chairmanto issue the same. The Resolution was issued by the Comelec allegedly upon "information from [a]reliable source that ABS-CBN (Lopez Group) has prepared a project, with PR groups, to conduct radio-TVcoverage of the elections . . . and to make [an] exit survey of the . . . vote during the elections fornational officials particularly for President and Vice President, results of which shall be [broadcast]immediately." The electoral body believed that such project might conflict with the official Comeleccount, as well as the unofficial quick count of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel). It alsonoted that it had not authorized or deputized Petitioner ABS-CBN to undertake the exit survey. On May9, 1998, this Court issued the Temporary Restraining Order prayed for by petitioner. We directed theComelec to cease and desist, until further orders, from implementing the assailed Resolution or therestraining order issued pursuant thereto, if any. In fact, the exit polls were actually conducted andreported by media without any difficulty or problemIssue:Whether the assailed resolution is validHeld:The absolute ban imposed by the Comelec cannot be justified. It does not leave open any alternativechannel of communication to gather the type of information obtained through exit polling. On the otherhand, there are other valid and reasonable ways and means to achieve the Comelec end of avoiding orminimizing disorder and confusion that may be brought about by exit surveys. A specific limited area forconducting exit polls may be designated. Only professional survey groups may be allowed to conduct thesame. Pollsters may be kept at a reasonable distance from the voting center. They may be required toexplain to voters that the latter may refuse interviewed, and that the interview is not part of the officialballoting process. The pollsters may further be required to wear distinctive clothing that would showthey are not election officials.48 Additionally, they may be required to undertake an informationcampaign on the nature of the exercise and the results to be obtained therefrom. These measures,together with a general prohibition of disruptive behavior, could ensure a clean, safe and orderlyelection. The freedom of expression is a fundamental principle of our democratic government. It "is a'preferred' right and, therefore, stands on a higher level than substantive economic or other liberties. . . .

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Term
Fall
Professor
Atty. Zamora

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