MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Election (Comelec) is faced with the huge task of monitoring campaign spending, even more so with the rise of social media as the most popular medium for candidates to widen their reach.
In its Resolution 10488, Comelec has included rules on the use of social media as instrument for campaign.
According to Comelec Spokesperson Director James Jimenez, the poll body has required all candidates and political parties to submit the uniform resource locator (URL) of their official pages for the Comelec to monitor their social media activities.
These include the website name and address, whether its an official blog site or social media page.
“Kung ano iyong official outlets nila online ay kailangan i-inform nila kami. Hindi natin mino-monitor ang volume ng labas nila. Ang mino-monitor natin ay ang cost ng content,” Jimenez said on Tuesday (February 12).
“Halimbawa, you have a thousand followers. You can boost it to more than 50,000 by spending some money. Iyon ang tina-track natin na expense. Because we know what their URLs are, alam natin kung saan natin hahanapin iyong mga campaign materials nila,” he added.
The poll body created a specific group of personnel who will focus on tracking down the candidates’ online bloggers and social media influencers to lead them to the candidates and make sure that no one will be able to escape the rules.
“Iisa naman ang template nila so hanapin mo iyong source. Huwag tayong ma-obsess sa mga galamay. Doon tayo sa pinanggalingan, iyon ang hahabulin namin,” Director Jimenez said.
Jimenez emphasized, however, that hiring social media associates or commenters must be reported to the poll body.
“Kapag nalaman (namin) na mayroon kang social media associates o gumagamit ka ng paid social media commenters, that would be included in your cost. Kasama iyan sa cost na kailangan mong ireport na ikaw ay naghire ng mga personnel for the campaign para ang trabaho lamang ay to influence a discourse,” the Comelec Spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, the poll body clarified that they do not count any post from a person that may benefit a candidate specifically those which cannot be considered as high value promotions.
“Mostly pasok iyan sa free expression,” Jimenez explained.
“You can literally post 24 hours a day and it will not make a difference. The only thing is kapag nag-promote ka ng post mo or naglabas ka ng content na medyo high value, high quality ay kailangan mong i-report. Iyon lang naman ang nire-regulate natin,” he added.
An election law expert said candidates should abide by the Comelec rules being the government body authorized to conduct and ensure a peaceful and orderly elections.
Atty. George Erwin Garcia noted, however, that the only thing questionable would be if the Comelec is doing a legislative function when it should only be executing the law.
“These will be issues which will be raised definitely in the Supreme Court. The Comelec can always interpret the law kung saan nila gustong i-interpret simply because under the Constitution, the Comelec is there to implement and supervise the conduct of the election,” Garcia concluded. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Aiko Miguel)