Comelec: It’s social media vs 3 Gs in May

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Disgusted with campaign streamers all over the neighborhood, or saturated by political ads on TV? Now you can tweet or email your complaint.

Filipinos have toppled a president by text messaging. This time, information and communication technology is being harnessed to curb violations of campaign rules by candidates in the upcoming elections.

“Basically, this is social media versus guns, goons and gold,” Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman James Jimenez said yesterday as the poll body prepared to launch an advertising campaign against the so-called “3 Gs.”

“Guns, goons and gold” have long been regarded as the banes of all Philippine elections, with candidates resorting to armed violence and vote-buying to ensure their victory at the polls.

Jimenez said if candidates have found social networking effective in wooing votes, the Comelec also intends to tap the same medium in going after violators of rules on campaign expenditures and propaganda.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the poll body is launching an ad - “Isumbong Mo sa Comelec” - encouraging the public to report violations through the Tweeter account @comelec and the website mycomelec.tv.

The website, which is in Filipino, specifies the campaign acts that are prohibited, and other matters related to the May elections. The site can be used for seeking a demonstration of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

Comelec officials said the rules most often violated are those on airtime limits, sizes of campaign materials, and common poster areas.

Jimenez said the Comelec is authorized to act on its own on complaints, which will be screened by the newly formed public information group under the Comelec’s education and information division headed by Jimenez.

Election officers on the field will validate the complaints, which will be treated confidentially.

“We have a few requirements before we act on something,” Jimenez said. “We have to know who the person tweeting the report is, how we can get in touch with him, the location of the infraction being tweeted and how long it has been there, if possible.”

He said this was to avoid accusations that the Comelec is engaging in a witch-hunt.

The Comelec has 35 committee members and an augmentation force. Eight “administrators” are being trained to handle the complaints.

“This is a fair notice to the candidates: the public is aware and it has the power to report what you are doing. The days when you do whatever you want are over,” Jimenez said.

Candidates have long resisted efforts to regulate campaigns, ignoring caps on spending and complying halfheartedly with requirements to declare campaign contributions and the donors.

Politicians also unleash armed goons to harass or even murder rivals, with the worst case leaving 58 people dead in Maguindanao in 2009.


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