MANILA, Philippines - The camp of former senator Jamby Madrigal admitted yesterday ownership of the Facebook page that posted a contest offering free iPads and apologized for the controversy.
Ernesto Francisco, one of Madrigalâ€™s lawyers, denied that the candidate approved the promotion and blamed her young campaign volunteers for launching the project without her knowledge.
Francisco said Madrigal has no intention of violating the law.
â€œShe will be the last person to violate any election law,â€ he said.
â€œNow if indeed something happened and itâ€™s already a violation of any election law, she apologizes to the Comelec for what the volunteers must have done and she wants to assure the Comelec and the public that such incident will not be repeated,â€ he said. â€œShe assured that from this time on, her campaign team will follow whatever the law provides.â€
He said that there was no effort by Madrigal to deny the existence of the Facebook contest.
â€œShe did not know anything about the incident. When her attention was called to it, she immediately instructed her team to have it removed,â€ Francisco said in a press briefing held at the Liberal Party headquarters in Cubao, Quezon City.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is investigating Madrigal for possible violation of election laws for coming out with a contest that offered a prize.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes had disclosed to the media that a probe is being conducted on a senatorial bet that he did not identify. However, a check of the Facebook account of Madrigal indeed showed a game being held and the prize offered was an iPad tablet.
Francisco said the Madrigal camp is conducting its own investigation into the matter to find out who came up with the idea and where the supposed prize would be coming from.
Team PNoy spokesman Rep. Miro Quimbo of Marikina City said that he was not sure that any election law was violated in this particular case because it involved social media and the Internet, where there is no jurisprudence or defined rulings that could be used to guide the candidates.
Quezon Rep. Lorenzo TaÃ±ada III, who also serves as Team PNoy spokesman, said that the administration does not tolerate violations of any law and that this has been made clear to all the candidates of Team PNoy.
â€œIn Team PNoy, we always remind our own respective candidates to not only try their best, but also to comply with the rules, election laws in our country,â€ TaÃ±ada said. He said that what is important now is that the ground troops of the candidates are also made aware of the rules of the game to ensure that everyone is on board as far as the policy of the coalition is concerned.
TaÃ±ada also commended the Comelec for being on its toes and immediately spotting all possible campaign violations.
â€œI hope this continues. This is a new venue, social media and Iâ€™m sure that after everything is said and done, after the 2013 elections there will maybe be changes with regard to our election laws to try to be up to date with what is happening in the election system,â€ he said.
Meanwhile, the Comelec plans to meet with online advertising companies to monitor the campaign propaganda of candidates.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body officials hope to get an idea on the electoral propaganda already posted in the Internet.
â€œWe will clarify the nature of the ad that we have been seeing on their websites,â€ he noted.
For the May 13 polls, the Comelec has included online campaign in the election propaganda that it is regulating to make sure that candidates spend within their allowed budget for the campaign.
Jimenez added the strict implementation of campaign rules is not limited to the traditional platforms like television, radio and print, but they have expanded it to the Internet as well.
â€œThere are other violations, of course, on the ground but the ones we are zeroing on now are mostly what we see online,â€ he said.
Under Comelec Resolution 9615, the poll body will be regulating political propaganda not particularly on the Twitter and Facebook but on the â€œpop ups and banners.â€
The resolution contains the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 9006 or the Fair Elections Act. â€“ With Sheila Crisostomo