Business Mirror : 2022 polls vote-buying: Comelec asks e-wallet firms ‘to do something’

16 September 2021

By MANUEL CAYON | Business Mirror

DAVAO CITY—Officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) are asking electronic wallet operators to help them track electronic vote-buying that, they admitted, posed a more challenging work as digital transactions have become the norm after the Duterte administration imposed lockdown measures.

Comelec Spokesman James B. Jimenez, however, did not disclose the detail of what these companies would likely do but he hopes for cooperation to make prosecution easier.

He said the Comelec would likewise tap Facebook’s “ads library” to help them track dedicated campaign advertisements of political candidates. He admitted though, that the array of social media applications available online would be a challenge in monitoring.

“Unfortunately, monitoring campaign ads on [online] social media [platforms] is only in the downstream; meaning, the final tracking would happen only after the campaign period has finished,” he said. “This ‘ads library’ [feature] would help us do back-checking when the candidates have submitted their election spending and campaign posting on the social media.”

‘Non-trollish’ use

THE challenge of tracking politicians’ ads on social media was also due to the lack of laws regulating its use during election campaign period, according to Jimenez.

“Our role is to regulate spending on social media,” he said in a presentation during the US Embassy-sponsored seminar on “Pandemic Polls: Election Reporting in the Covid-19 Era.” “This is where the greatest growth [in use] is seen.”

Sans regulations on the use of social media, he said the Comelec “is partnering with third-party [players] to provide tutorials on the effective, ‘non-trollish,’ use of social media for campaigning,” he said.

While the Comelec expects an increase in the use of mass media as politicians gear up for the polls, Jimenez said the rules for these remain unchanged.

Guidelines sought

RONA Ann Caritos of the nongovernment group Legal Network for Truthful Elections said Facebook would provide a better tracking of the campaign advertisements with viewers being able to know who posted the advertisements and “how that supporter is related or linked to the candidate.”

Caritos appealed to the Comelec to issue the guidelines soon to allow Filipino voters “to go out more confidently and vote.”

“As of now, Filipino voters are not yet ready; and the final guidelines from the Comelec would greatly help increase voters’ participation in next year’s elections,” she added.

The guidelines on the conduct of the May 2022 elections have been generally firmed up except for final work on the side of complying with health protocols, according to Jimenez.

“Restrictions will be applied on attendance, venue capacities and in-rally behaviors,” he added.

Looking closely

JIMENEZ also emphasized there would still be restrictions on permits issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government as well as by local government units.

“We would be looking closely at the gatherings at the barangays because this is where the campaign rallies are being held and where the likely infection [could] happen,” he said.

According to Jimenez, fundamental guidelines were changed to suit the mobility restrictions. These include the reduction in the number of voters per precinct: from 1,000 in the 2019 elections to 800 next year. To do this, the Comelec increased the number of precincts: from 84,000 in 2019 to 110,000 next year.

The number of voters would be approximately 61 million.

Some 18,000 elective positions are at stake, from the President down to members of the municipal council. Some 80 posts are at stake in the local governments under the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, despite Congress’s move to defer the elections there, which would cover only the posts in the autonomous government.

Local government elective positions, from governors and mayors, to members of the town and provincial councils, are still covered by the 2022 elections.