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ABS-CBN v.

COMELEC
G.R. No. 133486
Jan. 28, 2000
ABS-CBN
Broadcasting
Corporation
petitioners
responden Commission on Elections

Panganiban,J.

Bec

ts
summary COMELEC prohibited the conduct of exit polls by ABS-CBN on the ground of

clear and present danger it poses to the integrity of elections. However the
court said that it erred in such measure because it violates freedom of speech
and freedom of press by making an overbroad resolution as it prohibits the
long-tern use of such data on research.

facts of the case

COMELEC released a resolution which approved the issuance of a restraining order against
ABS-CBN to conduct exit survey. It acted upon reports that the network plans to conduct a TVradio coverage of the elections and make an exit survey of the votes cast for Pres and VP and
broadcast the results immediately.
SC issued a TRO against the resolution of COMELEC and the exit polls were actually
conducted and reported by media.
Arguments:
ABS-CBN: Holding exit polls and nationwide reporting of results are valid exercises of the
freedoms of speech and of the press. COMELEC committed GAD when it issued such
resolution
COMELEC: 1. The conduct of exit polls might confuse the voters and unduly influence them.
2. Exit surveys indirectly violate the sanctity of ballots as enshrined in the Constitution (Sec. 2
Art. 5) because the voters will be lured to reveal their votes.
3. Exit surveys pose a clear and present danger of destroying the credibility and integrity of
the electoral process because the media is not supervised by any govt agency which can
easily be manipulated.

issue

WON COMELEC in the exercise of its powers can ban exit polls? NO. The measure is
overbroad and unnecessarily restricts fundamental rights of speech and of press.

ratio

The Constitution mandates that no law shall be passed abridging freedom of speech and
press. These freedoms basically consist of the liberty to discuss publicly and truthfully any
matter of public interest without prior restraint. (Gonzales v. COMELEC) It represents a profound
commitment to the principle that debates on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and
wide open.
There are limitations however to this freedom in which the state, in the exercise of its police
power, can curtail whenever these tests are satisfied:
1. Clear and present danger rule the evil consequence of comment or utterance must be
extremely serious and the degree of imminence must be extremely high before the
utterance can be punished. The danger to be guarded against is the substantive evil
sought to be prevented.
2. Dangerous tendency rule - If the words uttered create a dangerous tendency which the
state has a right to prevent, then such words are punishable. It is sufficient if the natural
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tendency and probable effect of the utterance be to bring about the substantive evil which
the legislative body seeks to prevent. Note that the words need not be definite so as to
incite the listeners to acts of force, violence or unlawfulness.
The court adheres to the clear and present danger rule which is a question on the
proximity and degree of the utterance will result to the danger or evil sought to be avoided. This
is a heavy burden because the court is always on the side of freedom of expression. To justify
restriction, the promotion of substantial govt interest must be clearly shown. And even when its
purpose are legitimate and substantial, the means employed should not be broad as to stifle
personal liberties when the end can be more narrowly achieved.
In this case, the freedoms of speech and of the press should all the more be upheld when
what is sought to be curtailed is the dissemination of information meant to add meaning to the
equally vital right of suffrage. The interest being protected is the fundamental right to vote and
securing its sanctity through the ballots. However the means employed are necessarily broad
because it effectively prevents other uses of exit poll data for long term research purposes.
COMELEC tried to justify the restraint in arguing that such conduct of exit polls present a clear
and present danger of destroying the credibility and integrity of electoral process. (na unreliable
and surveys and might conflict with the count of COMELEC and NAMFREL) However its
arguments are purely speculative. Why?
1. Because in a survey, the participants are randomly selected so the results will be a
representation or reflection of the general sentiment of the community.
2. It is merely an opinion of the community or group polled. Its result is not meant to replace
or be at par with the official COMELEC count.
COMELEC s restriction on exit polls is overly broad. Its application is without qualification
whether the exit polls is disruptive or not. And assuming arguendo that there is such
qualification, there is no showing that exit polls will cause chaos in voting centers. The absolute
prohibition restricts the future use of valuable information for long-term research on the impact
of current events on the voting behavior of people.
ABS-CBN even explained its methodology which has enough precautions against the evils
enumerated by COMELEC:
(1) communities are randomly selected in each province;
(2) residences to be polled in such communities are also chosen at random;
(3) only individuals who have already voted, as shown by the indelible ink on their fingers, are
interviewed;
(4) the interviewers use no cameras of any sort;
(5) the poll results are released to the public only on the day after the elections
And lastly, on the issue of violation of ballot secrecy, the court said that such is not at issue
here. The exit poll dies not seek to access the ballots of the interviewees. The contents of their
ballots are not exposed. Even the choice of revealing who they voted for is not mandatory but
voluntary.
The reason behind the principle of ballot secrecy is to avoid vote buying through voter
identification. Thus, voters are prohibited from exhibiting the contents of their official ballots to
other persons, from making copies thereof, or from putting distinguishing marks thereon so as to
be identified. Also proscribed is finding out the contents of the ballots cast by particular voters or
disclosing those of disabled or illiterate voters who have been assisted. Clearly, what is forbidden
is the association of voters with their respective votes, for the purpose of assuring that the votes
have been cast in accordance with the instructions of a third party. This result cannot, however,
be achieved merely through the voters' verbal and confidential disclosure to a pollster of whom
they have voted for.