Inquirer.net : Comelec goes after spreaders of ‘fake news’

By Dona Z. Pazzibugan | Inquirer.net

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has asked the National Bureau of Investigation to file criminal charges against individuals behind at least five instances of spreading disinformation in social media about the May 9 elections.

Comelec Commissioner George Garcia, who heads the poll body’s task force against “fake news,” said they will press charges against the persons who made it appear that an overseas voting ballot in New Zealand did not have Vice President Leni Robredo among the presidential candidates.

Garcia said they will also press charges against the individuals who made a video about supposedly having gotten hold of an official ballot in advance to claim that the results of the May 9 elections are already known.

‘Credibility’ of the elections
The rest of the individuals who will be investigated also created social media posts to “undermine the credibility” of the elections, he said.

“Last week I referred to the NBI five instances in social media which really undermined the integrity and credibility of our electoral process, electoral system,” Garcia said in an online news forum on Wednesday.

“In the next succeeding days, even after the elections, expect that we will be filing cases against these individuals simply because what they did was wrong. They are saying the results are already in, that they are shading the original ballot,” he added.

Garcia, who was a practicing election lawyer before he was appointed to the Comelec last March, said the poll agency will go after persons who spread disinformation but will not go after people who criticize the conduct of the elections.

“We are fighting fake news. We are not fighting commentaries against the Comelec. Those who make commentaries whether against us or in our favor, don’t be afraid. You’re free to do so … We will not even file cases against you. That is part of the guarantee of our democracy,” he said.

In the ongoing overseas absentee voting, a photo of a supposed ballot given to a voter in New Zealand circulated in social media last week since Robredo’s name was not in the ballot.

The Comelec later confirmed that the photo was “deliberately edited to make it appear that VP Robredo’s name is missing from the list of presidential candidates.”

Garcia said they have traced the person who originally posted the tampered photo.

“Once we have filed the case .. we can serve the warrant of arrest that will be issued by the courts,” he said.