MANILA, Philippines – When it comes to advertisements, the Internet is uncharted territory for the Commission on Elections (Comelec). Even poll body chair Sixto Brillantes Jr finds its rules “vague” for online campaigns.
“Vague, tama 'yon, in the new aspects. Pero very clear in the other aspects,” Brillantes said in an interview with reporters Tuesday, January 22. (Vague, that's right, in the new aspects. But very clear in the other aspects.)
He said it wouldn't suprise him, then, if candidates “gamble” on online campaigns. But the Comelec will put its foot down on other aspects, which have already been “implemented long before.” These include caps on poster sizes and poster areas, as well as airtime, he said.
The 2013 elections is the first time the Comelec will regulate online campaigns. Comelec Resolution No. 9615 sets maximum sizes for online ads, and prohibits publishing these more than thrice a week per website.
The nature of the Internet, however, may make this a difficult task for the Comelec. The web is more fluid than traditional set-ups, and allows users to upload anything at a single click, free of charge. Internet users may also cloak themselves in anonymity, and critics have even challenged the law regulating online behavior.
'Loopholes' in rules
Sen Chiz Escudero has pointed out “loopholes” in the Comelec's online ad regulation.
“How can Comelec monitor it? For example, how do they count the minutes used by a particular candidate? What if someone uploads an ad without the candidate's knowledge or permission? Will that be counted against his airtime? What if ill-meaning protagonists will use this free uploading just to discredit a political rival?” Escudero said.
An election lawyer for over 20 years, Brillantes said candidates, indeed, could resort to campaign-related dirty tricks. He said a candidate could spread posters of his rival, for instance, so the latter would appear he's breaking campaign rules.
“Naglalagay pakonti-konti, meron. Pero hindi maglalagay nang maraming marami. Usually ang naglalagay nang maraming marami, 'yun ding mismong kandidato.” Brillantes said. (They used to post some, yes. But they wouldn't post a lot. Usually the one who posts a lot is the candidate himself.)
Given the Comelec's new rules, the other question is how the poll body will implement this. Brillantes earlier said the Comelec's Campaign Finance Unit, which is barely a year old, will strictly monitor election propaganda.
The unit will have to monitor over 1,100 broadcast stations, if it would only count members of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP). It will need to monitor hundreds of other non-KBP stations and websites.
Brillantes said the Comelec will heavily rely on the public. “Monitoring namin, madali. Ang pinakabantay namin sa monitoring, ang taumbayan,” he said. (Our monitoring is easy. The people will do most of the watching for us.) – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of 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 him at email@example.com.