2022 Philippine Elections

LENTE calls for vigilance against disinformation as election season nears

Dwight de Leon

Poll watchdog Legal Network for Truthful Elections asks the public to be extra cautious of online disinformation as the election season approaches.

Rappler file photo

The Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) adds that the success of the 2022 polls lies in the cooperation of sectors Comelec did not tap in past elections

A poll watchdog stressed the need to be wary of disinformation and misinformation in online and broadcast media, as an unprecedented election season against the backdrop of the pandemic approaches.

Dapat mas maging aware iyong mga tao na may mga sources of information na maaaring polluted (People should be aware that some sources of information may be polluted),” Ona Caritos, executive director of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE), said on Monday, April 19.

Speaking to Rappler, Caritos said she expects politicians aspiring to be elected into office to allocate a significant part of their campaign resources to online media, especially amid expectations that face-to-face campaigning will be limited due to the persisting threat of COVID-19.

“[Potential] candidates are spending now for their online campaigns. And most probably, the online spending of candidates will increase exponentially for next year. Those who do not have the money will still lose even if they post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, because they don’t have the capacity to boost their content,” Caritos added in a mix of English and Filipino.

It was only in 2019 when the Commission on Elections took baby steps to regulate social media by publishing guidelines – at least in terms of tracking campaign expenses.

Comelec also said in February that it might promote online campaigning more to help prevent the spread of the virus.

However, many places in the Philippines are still grappling with poor internet connection, so Caritos pointed out that the public must also be cautious about politicians exploiting traditional, offline platforms during election season.

She looked back at the Palawan plebiscite in March, where radio stations became an avenue for voters to hear more about the details of the election.

“We should look into that as an avenue of information, misinformation, and biased reporting. We have observed that in local channels, there were biased commentators,” Caritos said.

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“Aside from maximizing online platforms, Comelec must make use of local information platforms. We [people in urban areas] have a fascination with Facebook. When you visit provinces, it [remains] work as usual, [same old, same old],” Caritos added.

Collaborative effort for 2022 polls

LENTE is in the process of finalizing its recommendations to Comelec about how the 2022 elections can be improved, with the Palawan plebiscite as a guide.

Caritos said next year’s polls will require the cooperation of many sectors as the pandemic complicates the conduct of the elections.

“[During the plebiscite], ang daming minobilize na agencies ng Comelec na hindi nila mino-mobilize in previous elections, particularly iyong municipal or city health office (Comelec mobilized many agencies that were not utilized in elections past, like the city health office),” Caritos noted.

Caritos stressed that the success of next year’s elections lies not only in Comelec.

Nakita namin sa Palawan plebiscite na dapat lahat talaga involved, political parties, candidates, private organizations, individuals, kailangan lahat involved to make our elections successful next year,” Caritos said.

(The Palawan plebiscite showed that everyone should be involved – political parties, candidates, private organizations, and individuals to ensure a successful 2022 elections.) – Rappler.com

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.