MANILA - The embassy of the United States in the Philippines on Wednesday stressed the important role of media in the conduct of safe and credible elections.
Speaking in a webinar organized by the embassy on election reporting amid the COVID-19 pandemic, John Groch of the U.S. Embassy public affairs section said lessons from the seminar can help voters “navigate the election season” and become “better, critical thinkers” amid a “tsunami of disinformation.”
“Journalism plays a crucial role in ensuring the conduct of safe and credible elections,” Groch said.
Talking about the 2020 elections in the United States, Groch said “efforts to provide correct and transparent information helped stabilize” the US democratic system amid “repeated” disinformation-driven challenges to the US election outcome.
Poll watchdog Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) Executive Director Rona Ann Caritos proposed areas that media can highlight in their upcoming election coverage.
She suggested that in addition to doing their their usual work, media can do the following:
- call out misinformation and disinformation
- ask candidates where their campaign funds are coming from
- study what online platforms are doing to make themselves accountable
- inform voters on the new COVID-19 health protocols for election season
Caritos pointed out the availability of Facebook’s Ad Library, a transparency tool that gives people more information about ads they see, including “names of organizations that pay for ads about social issues, elections or politics, or a specific advertiser or Page.”
Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez proposed reporting that check the compliance of campaigns with health protocols, compliance of candidates with COMELEC regulations on the use of mass media for campaigning, how much candidates are spending on their social media campaign, whether candidates employ or benefit from trolls and trollish activity, among others.
The Comelec has instituted changes to conduct safer polls, including a change of venue in the filing of COCs (at least for national candidates), restrictions on the entourage size of candidates filing their COCs, observance of health protocols, and the provision of isolation polling places for voters who manifest COVID-like symptoms on election day.
The Philippines will hold its next national and local elections on May 9, 2022. Filing of candidacies will open on Oct. 1.