Comelec eyes ‘smart’ tack vs campaign overspenders on social media

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 13 2019 05:14 PM

MANILA—A 10-man team from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has taken on the enormous task of monitoring campaign spending on social media, a new regulation one veteran election lawyer said would likely be questioned before the Supreme Court.

The group is headed by Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, who said it would work “smart” to track spending, including the use of so-called social media “influencers.”

Questions have been raised on how the commission can identify social media accounts used by candidates for their campaign, aside from requiring candidates and parties to register them. 

Another issue is how to establish the contractual relationship, for instance, between a candidate and a popular social media user, or differentiating a hired influencer from one who just happened to be a supporter.

“Either you work hard or work smart,” Jimenez told a press forum Wednesday.

“Kung mapapansin mo, pare-pareho naman yung sinasabi. Iisa naman yung template nila. So hanapin mo yung source. Huwag tayo ma-obsesses doon sa mga galamay.”

Election lawyer George Garcia said the Comelec should be “appreciated” for regulating campaign spending on social media.

But he said the Supreme Court might eventually be asked to determine “whether the Comelec, in the absence of a specific provision of the law, can regulate social media.”

“The question is — can the Comelec punish something which the law does not mention?” he said.

“Yun po highly questionable, but at the same time, that is enough for anybody to at least respect the Comelec, and not to attempt to violate the provisions.”

Jimenez cited the Comelec’s position that social media falls under “mass media” which is covered by the rule on campaign spending.

“Kung hindi natin ire-regulate ang social media, ibig ba sabihin, ilusyon na lang yung spending limit na mina-mandate ng batas kasi nga nakahanap tayo ng lugar na pagtataguan ng pera?” he said.