Comelec weighs limited broadcast of Pacquiao fight

Paterno R. Esmaquel II
Comelec weighs limited broadcast of Pacquiao fight
The poll body revisits its 2007 decision, including a commissioner's argument that a total ban on the telecast is not possible because Pacquiao 'is of national interest'

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday, February 29, said it is studying its decision in 2007 that restricted the airing of a match of boxing champ Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao in his own province.

While the Comelec imposed restrictions back then, a poll commissioner in 2007 said the poll body “cannot impose a total ban” on the telecast of Pacquiao’s boxing match because the boxer “is of national interest.”

Definitely isa ‘yon sa mga pag-aaralan kung mag-a-apply pa rin,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez told reporters on Monday. (Definitely that’s one of the things we will study, if this will still apply.)

The Comelec is weighing this previous decision after Walden Bello, one of the boxer’s rivals in the senatorial race, urged the poll body to declare Pacquiao’s upcoming match as illegal.

Pacquiao, now Sarangani representative, is set to fight boxer Timothy Bradley in a match on April 9, exactly a month before the May 9 elections.

Bello said the match on April 9 will give Pacquiao “a tremendous advantage in terms of publicity,” a violation of airtime limits for candidates. He urged Pacquiao, a senatorial candidate under the opposition United Nationalist Alliance, to postpone his match with Bradley.

Jimenez, for his part, said the Comelec is set to tackle the petition against Pacquiao in its regular meeting on Tuesday, March 1.

He said part of their discussion is the 2007 case involving Pacquiao’s match with Mexican boxer Jorge Solis.

Back then, the Comelec partially restricted the airing of Pacquiao’s fight in South Cotabato, where he was running for congressman in the first district. He eventually lost to Darlene Antonino Custodio. 

Sixto Brillantes Jr, who would become Comelec chairman in 2011, filed the petition against Pacquiao’s match that prompted the Comelec to impose restrictions.

In 2016, however, Pacquiao is running for senator, a national post.

‘Pacquiao is of national interest’ 

In 2007, the Comelec ended up allowing the broadcast only of “the boxer’s pre-fight sparring sessions and the actual bout itself” in South Cotabato, according to The Philippine Star

A Comelec minute resolution on April 17, 2007, limited these restrictions to the first district of South Cotabato.

What the Comelec didn’t allow in the affected area was the broadcast of “the full pre-fight session and the documentaries before the actual match,” the Star reported.

“We cannot impose a total ban because Pacquiao is of national interest,” then Comelec commissioner Rene Sarmiento reportedly said. 

Fast-forward to 2016, Jimenez said the Comelec’s decision in 2007 “does not necessarily bind the commission.”

“This commission will have to come up with its own set of rules and justifications for how it will treat this new case,” he told reporters Monday.

He pointed out, for one, that “substantial differences” exist between the case in 2007 and the one in 2016.

Jimenez said one of these is that Pacquiao was running for a lower position back then, and now he is running for senator.

Still, another difference lies in the limits on advertisements.

For the 2016 elections, the Comelec limits television ads of national candidates to 120 minutes per television station and 180 minutes per radio station. A boxing match with Pacquiao can run for up to two hours, excluding pre-fight events.

Signed in 2013, a Comelec resolution also requires media personalities running for public office to “take a leave of absence from his/her work as such during the campaign period.” –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email