SWS, Pulse Asia blast Comelec over 'threat'

MANILA, Philippines – Joining forces, survey giants blasted the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday, June 18, after the poll chief reportedly threatened to sue them for not divulging who funds their polls.

In a joint statement, pollsters Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia criticized Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr for “threatening to file criminal charges” against SWS, Pulse Asia, and other survey firms over non-compliance with a controversial rule. 

Brillantes issued the supposed threat in a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer last Sunday, June 16. He referred to a Comelec resolution requiring survey firms to divulge their funders – an unprecedented move to promote transparency.

SWS and Pulse Asia, however, said the they're not obliged to heed it in the first place.

Both explained: “Resolution No. 9674 gave SWS and Pulse Asia 3 days 'from receipt of this resolution' to submit the names of all commissioners and payors of surveys. Comelec, however, up to the present has not furnished SWS and Pulse Asia with a copy of the resolution. Thus, insofar as SWS and Pulse Asia are concerned, the period to comply with Resolution No. 9674 has not begun.”

“So what defiance is Chair Brillantes talking about? This also explains why SWS and Pulse Asia have not as yet questioned Resolution No. 9674 before the Supreme Court (SC).”

The two companies added: “Chair Brillantes should have first checked and verified Comelec records before threatening to sue SWS and Pulse Asia.”

'Unconstitutional' rule

The pollsters stressed their opposition to the Comelec resolution. The two cited a letter received by the Comelec on May 2, denouncing the resolution in the following terms:

In their May 2 letter, the two companies also asked the Comelec to defer enforcing Resolution No. 9674. They said they will elevate the matter to the SC.

Brillantes, for his part, said the two companies should comply with the resolution if they did not get a temporary restraining order. “There would be criminal liability. Maybe they just forgot,” the poll chief said in the Inquirer interview.

'Half victory'

Justifying Resolution No. 9674, Brillantes earlier referred to the Fair Elections Act, or Republic Act No. 9006, which makes itself clear on surveys.

The law says any firm that publishes a survey during the election period should publish "the name of the person, candidate, party, or organization who commissioned or paid for the survey." (Read: Why pollsters should divulge funders.)

Comelec commissioner Christian Lim, who handles campaign finance, called Resolution No. 9674 a “half victory” for the poll body.

While the resolution requires survey firms to divulge to Comelec their funders, including subscribers, there's a catch. It says “such information/data shall be for the exclusive and confidential use of the commission.” (Read: Comelec's rule on surveys: 'Half victory.') – 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.