Comelec urged to clarify rules on social media

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04:27 PM February 20th, 2013

By: Maila Ager, February 20th, 2013 04:27 PM

MANILA, Philippines—Team  PNoy now wants  the  Commission  on Elections (Comelec) to  clarify its rules  on  campaigning  via social media, saying that existing  election laws do not “specifically” mention  about it.

One of  Team PNoy senatorial  candidates, former Senator Jamby Madrigal, is now facing an investigation by the Comelec for  supposedly holding a contest  on Facebook, promising  to give an iPad  to the  winner.

But Deputy Speaker  Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada, in a press conference on Wednesday, noted that the  Omnibus Election Code does not mention about  the use of social media.

“There’s nothing specific with regard to social media.  If  you  look  at the Omnibus e Election Code,  wala e. Kaya nga ang tanong nga dito, kung hindi ito binanggit sa Omnibus Election Code, then can it be applied to social media?”  Tañada said.

When the  law was crafted, he said, lawmakers  did not envision  that   the social media  would be used in the campaign.

“This is a new platform  that  maybe  at the time our election laws were being crafted,  they never thought  that the internet will be used as a platform of campaign. So hindi klaro talaga  kung pwede nating gamitin iyong election laws sa social media. So this is something that we all would  like to look into,” Tañada said.

While the principle of vote-buying was clear  in the law,   it was not  however  clear  if the same can be applied on Internet.

“Kasi vote-buying in general, we know how it goes.  Now in social media, is this  going to be  considered as vote-buying if  simply there’s an offer, there’s an exchange, there’s value?”    he said.

“I’m not saying I’m defending (Madrigal). This is where the grey area comes in. It’s a game that people are being asked to give their best anti-i corruption statement.  And supposedly,  based on what we saw a prize  would be given. So is this necessarily considered vote-buying?” he further asked.

Tañada   then suggested  a review of the  election laws after the 2013 elections.

It was Marikina Representative  Romero Quimbo, another spokesman of Team PNoy, who first noted  the  “grey areas”  in the rules  now being applied for social  media.

“Social media as a venue for campaigning is entirely  a new terrain. It’s something that has not been used so actively as much as it’s being used today. And we need to be able to harmonize all our election laws so that candidates  can have a clear picture as well as supporters on how we can use it,” Quimbo said in the  same press con.

Madrigal’s lawyer, Ernesto Francisco, said  the former senator has already  apologized to  the  Comelec.

“We’d just like to make it clear that Senator Madrigal has no intention of violating the law. According to her, she’ll be the last  person to violate any election law,” Francisco said.

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