Comelec fights unprecedented ‘misinformation’ online

Paterno Esmaquel II
Comelec fights unprecedented ‘misinformation’ online
Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez says it is now ‘easier to share than to verify’ allegations of poll fraud

MANILA, Philippines – While claiming it is now more prepared than in previous polls, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it is facing a “bigger” problem: the spread of election-related “misinformation” online.

Mas mahirap pa ngayong challenge ‘yung sinasagupa natin ‘yung napakaraming misinformation na kumakalat, so that’s, right now, the bigger challenge for us,” Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said in an interview on Saturday evening, May 7.

(The more difficult challenge is fighting the many forms of misinformation now spreading, so that’s, right now, the bigger challenge for us.)

Jimenez cited false reports of election fraud spreading through social media.

One such report shows the photo of a fake ballot with yellow highlights over the names of administration standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II and his running mate, Leni Robredo.

Many others claim discrepancies between votes fed in vote-counting machines (VCMs) and the votes shown on voting receipts.

These claims reportedly came from the month-long overseas absentee voting and the final testing and sealing of VCMs. These have taken the form of viral photos and long Facebook notes, among other things.

Despite these reports, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said not a single formal complaint has been filed before the poll body as of Friday, May 6.

Comelec Commissioner Arthur Lim earlier said the poll body can sue voters who, even through social media posts, falsely claim election fraud.

‘Powered by social media’

In his interview with reporters, Jimenez explained why the situation this year is unique.

“It’s powered by social media,” he said. “It’s so easy to share. It’s easier to share than to verify.”

He added that while social media existed as early as 2010, when the Philippines first held automated elections, the situation is still different this year.

Referring to the state of social media in 2010, he said, “Nagsisimula pa lang noon, pero hindi pa easily available mobile.” (It was starting before, but it was not yet easily available mobile.)

Jimenez also issued a reminder for supporters of presidential candidates, who have engaged in heated discussions on Facebook and Twitter.

Addressing these supporters, Jimenez said, “Chill, dudes.”

Jimenez continued: “It’s good that we express our insights. It’s good that we express what we want to say. But at the end of the day, can we all draw the line at threats? Can we draw the line at wishing ill on other people?”

“It doesn’t really matter if you have different opinions. I’m sure no one wants anyone else to die,” Jimenez said.

The Philippine National Police (PNP), for its part, said it is preparing to crack down on cyberbullying cases related to the May 9 elections.

The PNP also said it is ready to secure media practitioners harassed by candidates’ supporters. –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

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