Comelec sees no violation

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - There is no more rule against early campaigning, so Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes sees nothing wrong with President Aquino’s provincial tour accompanied by candidates of the ruling Liberal Party (LP).

What the Comelec is trying to monitor is campaigning using the Internet, Brillantes said yesterday.

“There’s no premature campaigning,” he said. “That’s OK. UNA (United Nationalist Alliance) is also doing that. You can see their faces coming out on TV one by one. What can we do about that?”

The Supreme Court struck down prohibitions on “premature campaigning” in the Penera vs Comelec case in 2009, he added.

The campaign period has not started so no one among those seeking elective posts is officially a candidate, Brillantes said.

Meanwhile, the Comelec will monitor illegal campaigning on the Internet, including micro-blogging and social networking on Twitter and Facebook.

In Resolution No. 9615, the Comelec had included “online election propaganda” in the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 9006, the Fair Elections Act.

Brillantes said it is about time that election propaganda in cyberspace is regulated, since it is becoming a tool for candidates to woo voters.

Brillantes said unless one is a civil servant, general and personal opinions expressed in blogs, Twitter and Facebook are not considered acts of election campaigning or partisan political activity.

“That is freedom of expression,” he said.

“But if (you are) in civil service, there might be an issue... (for) private citizens, that’s OK, unless we notice that candidates are using them. We can see if there is a pattern so we will investigate if we see a pattern.”

Brillantes said it would be up to the Comelec to investigate the link between online propaganda and candidates.

“It’s exactly the same analogy in posters. They would say they had nothing to do with it. So what do you do? It’s just a matter of investigation,” he said.

The Comelec resolution had set a “maximum size for online propaganda for each candidate, whether for national or local election position or party.”

“Said online advertisement, whether procured by purchase, or given free of charge, shall not be published more than three times a week per website during the campaign period,” the resolution said.

“For this purpose, the exhibition or display of the online advertisement for any length of time, regardless of frequency, within a 24-hour period, shall be construed as one instance of publication.”

Brillantes could not say how the Comelec would compute campaign expenses through Twitter and Facebook.

“This is new,” he said.

“My own proposal is we start implementing this with our resolution already out and then we observe. It is our resolution, which means we can always amend or supplement it as we move on. Let’s see. Maybe we can come out with a supplemental or amendatory resolution,” he said.

Under the resolution, the Comelec will also impose stricter rules on the airtime limit allowed for the political propaganda of each candidate and party on television and radio.

It showed that the number of limits allowed for each bet should be counted in total and not per radio and television station as in previous elections.

The Comelec said for a national candidate, the advertisement should not exceed a total of 120 minutes for TV and 180 minutes for radio. 

For local candidates, it should be 60 and 90 minutes, respectively.

The rules for “tandem ads” or those featuring a party-list group and a candidate were also amended.

“Tandem ads or joint ads (multiple candidates in one ad) will be charged to airtime of each candidate,” Brillantes said.

The appearances and guestings on bona fide interviews, newscasts, interviews, and documentaries that can be considered incidental to the presentation of the subjects covered by the news will not be considered election propaganda.

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