Comelec wants to regulate ad agencies during elections

Jekki Pascual, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 15 2023 05:17 PM

PASAY — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Wednesday it wants to monitor advertising agencies every election period.

The poll body said this is to ensure candidates' campaign spending is within the limits prescribed by the law.

At the Senate hearing led by the Committee on Electoral Reforms and People's Participation on the proposed New Omnibus Election Code, Comelec said, for now, it can only require media networks to submit the advertising expenses of political ads.

Now, the poll body wants to also require ad agencies to do so since ad agencies cover not only broadcast or print advertising, but also social media spending.

"Kasi hindi sila nag sa-submit sa amin. Ang nagsa-submit mga media entities ng receipts, mga resibo. We will even compel these ad agencies during the election period lang naman po. We will compel them to submit everything to the commission," Comelec Chairperson George Garcia proposed.

One of the amendments being eyed is on campaign period and spending as Comelec admitted it is difficult to monitor the ads, especially on social media.

Proposals include having a system where political parties monitor their competition and file a complaint before the Comelec on issues regarding ads on social media.

Another proposal is to make the candidate responsible for social media ads campaigning for them even if he or she didn't know it was posted.

Sen. Imee Marcos, chairperson of the said committee, however, said it is difficult to monitor the election campaign on social media as some supporters can just post on their own.

She added one cannot penalize candidates who have no control over their supporters.

"We have some very rabid loyalists, fans, supporters who are completely out of control and will not even listen to us. Masyadong mapusok talaga ang iba, lalo na sa kasagsagan ng halalan," Marcos said.

Garcia added another problem they are seeing is the lack of manpower.

He said there may be around 50,000 candidates during an election and each has 10 official social media accounts.

Garcia said it is challenging for the poll body to monitor all these accounts, not to mention that there are also unofficial accounts.

Other proposals include checking the BIR records of media companies, having standard advertising rates, and coordinating with social media sites especially as some users are based abroad and may be hard to prosecute.

Marcos said they will form a technical working group to discuss all the issues tackled at the hearing.

They will be formed by representatives from the Comelec, poll groups, KBP among others.

Issues that may be raised are the voters' online registration process, the status of a candidate once they file the certificate of candidacy, and a reasonable campaign budget per voter.