Comelec eyes ban on AI, deepfakes

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star
Comelec eyes ban on AI, deepfakes
George Erwin Garcia Chairman, COMELEC
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is eyeing to ban the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and deepfakes during the campaign for the May 2025 midterm elections.

Comelec Chairman George Garcia said the poll body would tackle the issue next week.

“I will convince our commission en banc to prohibit during the campaign period the use of AI and deepfakes, because many are confused and misrepresented, and untruths abound when these are used,” Garcia told reporters yesterday.

“We know modern technology. Why don’t we use it? However, when campaigning, you should be the one that is seen by the people,” he added.

The use of AI can be considered a threat to democracy and proper campaigning by candidates, according to the Comelec chief.

In a letter sent to the Comelec en banc, Garcia emphasized that there is growing concern on the threat of AI and deepfakes that could be used to sow deceit and misinformation among voters.

He noted that President Marcos himself, as well as other heads of states, have become victims of deepfake videos.

Deepfakes are synthetic media that have been digitally manipulated to replace a person’s likeness.

“The abuse of AI technology and deepfake videos undermine the integrity of the elections and the credibility of public officials, candidates and election management authorities,” Garcia said.

He added that deepfakes defeat the purpose of campaigning that is meant to truthfully inform the voting public about the elections and the candidates.

Garcia stressed that his letter to the poll body was a general request concerning a possible ban on the use of AI and deepfakes, but he said the commission gets feedback from its law department and its education and information department on what aspects of AI should be restricted during the campaign.

What is important at this time, he explained, is that the Comelec is taking measures to control wrongdoings during elections.

Party-list substitution

After banning the substitution of candidates in the national and local elections, the Comelec intends to impose a similar prohibition on party-list nominees who will participate in the next year’s elections.

Garcia said the poll body intends to require party-list groups to submit 10 nominees instead of the previous requirement of five.

He added that the Comelec would impose the requirement to prevent instances of substitution long after the party-list elections.

“It’s impossible that the five original nominees will all resign. It seems to have a semblance that is unrealistic,” he pointed out.

“If there are 10 nominees at the onset and five will withdraw, there will be five remaining; if seven will withdraw, there will be three remaining,” he added.

For the Comelec chief, it is highly unlikely for all 10 nominees to withdraw which will prompt the party-list group to submit a list of substitute nominees.

“There ought to be no substitution when we talk about party-list to be fair to all, that’s why we will require to submit 10 nominees so that there will always remain,” he added.

At this time, the Comelec is deliberating on the list of party-list groups that will be allowed to participate in next year’s elections, according to Garcia.

New voters hit 3.2 million

Meanwhile, the number of aspiring new voters seeking to vote in next year’s elections has reached over 3.2 million, the Comelec reported yesterday.

Data showed that since the resumption of voter registration last Feb. 12, a total of 3,210,523 aspiring voters have submitted their applications for registration.

The biggest number of applicants came from Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) with 568,411, followed by the National Capital Region with 463,364.

A total of 5,443 aspiring voters filed their applications before the Comelec main office in Intramuros, Manila.

Central Luzon ranked third with 372,090 applicants, followed by Central Visayas with 218,329 and Davao Region with 184,141.

The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) recorded the lowest number of applicants with 41,607, followed by Mimaropa (Mindoro Provinces, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) with 80,621 and Caraga with 81,789.

Of the total number of applicants, 1,654,842 are females while 1,555,681 are males.

Garcia said the Comelec had already exceeded its target of 3 million new voters.

The poll body, however, will continue to encourage all eligible voters to register until the last day of registration on Sept. 30.

OVCS deal awarded

In another development, the Comelec has awarded the contract for the procurement of the online voting and counting system (OVCS) to be used in the overseas voting for next year’s polls.

After a thorough deliberation, the Comelec en banc ordered the issuance of notice of award to the joint venture SMS Global Technologies and Sequent Tech Inc., which has offered the lowest calculated bid (LCB) of P112 million.

“After a careful review and consideration of the foregoing and noting that in this procurement project, where the approved budget for the contract is P465,810,926.56, the bid of the LCB joint venture SMS Global Technologies and Sequent Tech in the amount of P112,000,000 will result in a P353,810,926.57 total savings, which, if awarded, is advantageous to the government,” the poll body said in a resolution approved yesterday.

The Comelec approved the resolution after its special bids and awards committee (SBAC) junked the motion for reconsideration filed by the joint venture of Voatz Inc.-ePLDT Inc. and EBizolution Inc. for lack of merit.

The SBAC said that it found no reason to reverse the decision declaring the joint venture led by SMS Global as the bidder with the lowest calculated and responsive bid.

The joint venture of Voatz Inc.-ePLDT Inc. and EBizolution Inc. sought the disqualification of the winning bidder for allegedly not possessing the qualification required under the bid.

With the resolution, Garcia said the poll body could proceed with the preparations for next year’s elections.

He added that after the signing of the contract, the Comelec would issue the notice to proceed and then the customization of automated counting machines (ACMs) could continue.

The OVCS will be used by Filipinos who will cast their votes abroad.

Election calendar out

The Comelec released last night the official calendar of activities for next year’s midterm elections.

Based on the calendar, the election period will begin on Jan 12, 2025 and end on June 11, 2025.

A gun ban shall be in effect during the five-month period.

From Oct. 1 to 8, those running for the polls may file their certificates of candidacy while party-list groups will file their certificates of nomination and acceptance.

The campaign period for senatorial candidates and party-list groups will be from Feb. 11, 2025 to May 10, 2025.

Candidates for the House of Representatives, parliamentary, provincial, city and municipal offices will allowed to campaign from March 28, 2025 to May 10, 2025.

Overseas voting will be from April 13, 2025 to May 12, 2025 while voting for local absentee voters is from April 28 to 30, 2025.

Liquor consumption and campaigning shall be prohibited from the eve of the elections until election day.

Comelec dared

Former Caloocan representative Edgar Erice dared the Comelec to demonstrate and prove to the Supreme Court and legislators that the ACMs manufactured by the joint venture led by Korean firm Miru Systems Co. Ltd. will work.

“The Comelec must prove to the Supreme Court that its contract with Miru is not illegal,” Erice said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum yesterday.

“But I can also prove that the Comelec-Miru deal is not only illegal, but also dangerous,” he added.

The former lawmaker maintained that the hybrid election system by Miru is illegal and unnecessary to be rolled out for next year’s elections.

He insisted that the Comelec could still scrap the deal with Miru and just use the old ACMs.

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