Comelec's rule on surveys: 'Half victory'

MANILA, Philippines – Should political parties – and the public – celebrate the rule to compel survey firms to divulge their funders to the poll body?

Not completely.

In an interview with Rappler on Wednesday, April 24, Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner Christian Lim described the new resolution as a “half victory” for political parties. He referred specifically to the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), which, through its secretary-general Navotas Rep Toby Tiangco, compelled the Comelec to tackle this.

Comelec Resolution No. 9674, which was promulgated Tuesday, April 23, requires survey firms to divulge to Comelec their funders, including subscribers. However, “such information/data shall be for the exclusive and confidential use of the commission,” the resolution said. (Read: Comelec to pollsters: Divulge funders.)

If the data is confidential, how can the public use it?

In the case of UNA, it requested the Social Weather Stations (SWS) for the names of those who paid for its survey dated February 15-17, 2013. The SWS declined UNA's request. The Comelec resolution does not compel SWS to release these data to UNA – only to the Comelec, in confidence.

“It's a half victory,” said Lim, who is tasked to implement the new resolution.

“The other half is that we will know the subscribers, because we're requiring them. The other half is, we're also not giving it to (UNA), as requested by Mr Tiangco,” he said. (Watch more in the video below.)

Comelec's 'first step'

Lim said the Comelec respects the non-disclosure agreements between survey firms and their clients. He also said the Comelec wants to prevent parties from using these data for propaganda.

Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr, however, said it's a different ball game once candidates break the Comelec's campaign finance rules. These violations include exceeding the limit on expenditures.

“If there is a violation, then it becomes public,” said Brillantes, referring to the data provided by the survey firms.

The Comelec could use these data as evidence in election offense cases, Lim added.

He said the new resolution is, in a way, temporary. He said the Comelec has chosen to withhold the data on survey funders “as of now.”

For now, he said, the Comelec wants to assess compliance, then “later on, we will see.”

In the first place, kung ayaw nilang ibigay, kahit sa amin lang, kahit confidential, then there's really something wrong. It invokes more affirmative action,” he said. (In the first place, if they don't want to release it, even to us, even if it's confidential, then there's really something wrong. It invokes more affirmative action.)

Lim said this is a “first step” for the Comelec. “Tingin namin, may kasunod pa 'to eh.” (We think something else will follow this.) – Rappler.com

Paterno R. 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 pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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