Google ban on political ads to affect poorer candidates: lawyer

Benise Balaoing, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 02 2021 01:41 PM | Updated as of Dec 02 2021 01:47 PM

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MANILA – An election lawyer hit internet giant Google’s move to not accept election advertisements during the 2022 campaign period, saying this narrows the campaign space for candidates with limited funds.

“I think internet and social media advertisements [are] still the cheapest among the different platforms compared for example to TV or radio. So this will have an impact for example especially to candidates who [don’t] have big campaign funds,” Atty. Emil Marañon III said in an ANC interview. 

“Because, just to give you an example, even if for example 'yung mga mayayaman na candidates if they cannot go for social media for example, they can always go for TV or radio. But on the other hand 'yung mga candidates with less campaign funds for example will have to be forced to stick with online or in-person campaign,” he said.

Marañon said Google’s decision is especially significant for Filipino candidates, as the Commission on Elections has mandated that only platform-verified social media accounts—like those with the blue check marks on Facebook and Twitter—will be allowed to run campaign ads in 2022.

“This basically limits the use of the internet for the campaigning next year because iilan ba 'yung kandidato na platform-verified or may blue check ng Facebook or Twitter?”

“So basically this bans the use of social media and internet platforms for those who are not verified under these different platforms. So liliit nang liliit po 'yung mundo ng kandidato especially those which do not have much campaign funds.”

The lawyer said this problem is now worsened by the fact that candidates need to seek Comelec’s permission to do in-person campaigns.

“Meron ding restrictions sa in-person campaigning because you still have to get a permit from Comelec before campaigning in person so, in other words mas lumiliit 'yung puwang or space for campaigning ng mga taong hindi makaka-afford ng TV and radio.”

“And now even yung ano, yung kaya nilang ma-afford which is internet or social media ire-restrict mo pa yung access nila doon, then that will not be…beneficial for them.”

Marañon said the Comelec rule—and Google’s refusal to run campaign ads—will likely hit candidates in small towns running for local posts.

“If you can imagine, sino-sino ba ang verified na social media accounts sa Pilipinas? Konting-konti lang, it’s a very tiny percentage, and number two, [it’s] very difficult to have your account verified, for example sa Twitter or Facebook. It is per invitation, and there’s a requirement na dapat you must be influential enough and you must be have a number of followers.”

“So with that, this means that an ordinary politician for example in a small town, this would mean that he cannot use Facebook or Twitter in his campaign because he cannot be verified because hindi siya pasok doon sa criteria ng Facebook or Twitter. So basically this will deprive everyone of the use of that platform for campaigning.”

The lawyer said the Philippine poll body seems to be picking on social media platforms.

“So ang question lang is, bakit natin pinag-iinitan yung only platform na afford ng tao, ‘di ba? Bakit natin pinag-iinitan? Ba’t hindi natin pag-initan 'yung paggamit ng 'yung walang tigil for example ng TV ads, di ba?”

Marañon also said Comelec’s rules on social media campaigning have no legal basis.

“There is no law, no election law in the Philippines which regulates social media campaigning, and basically these are all invention of the Comelec,” he noted.

“So in fact, when they have made an announcement for example that it will carry daw yung penalties, because they will be treated as an election offense, but what will be the legal basis?”

--ANC, 2 December 2021

The logo of Google is seen on a building at La Defense business and financial district in Courbevoie near Paris, France, September 1, 2020. Charles Platiau, Reuters/File Photo
The logo of Google is seen on a building at La Defense business and financial district in Courbevoie near Paris, France, September 1, 2020. Charles Platiau, Reuters/File Photo