The Commission on Elections, COMELEC, has published the rules and regulations under Republic Act 9006, in connection with regulated campaigning for the May 13, 2013 elections. Resolution No. 9615 also regulates the online promotional opportunities given to electoral candidates. It is fair to say no webmaster, nor agency, will become rich from this electoral campaign if COMELEC has anything to say about the matter.
The complete act, as found at the COMELEC website and embedded below tries to possibly over-regulate campaigning this season, despite the governments inability to deal with epal. The act not only defines the authorized banner sizes which can be used online, but even goes as far as limiting how often electoral banners can be shown. And COMELEC has shown itself to be very generous.
“Said online advertisement, whether procured by purchase, or given free of charge, shall not be published more than three times a week per website during the campaign period. For this purpose, the exhibition or display of the online advertisement for any length of time, regardless of frequency, within a 24 hour period, shall be construed as one instance of publication.”
We will assume that what COMELEC actually meant is three times per week per page visitor, rather than three times per week per website. But even then due to both ad-blindness and limited time spent on pages on many a website, this straight copy and paste from the “print” regulations also defined in Section 9 of Resolution No. 9615, makes one wonder whether these official agencies consult internet specialists before publishing resolutions or decrees.
Additionally website owners shall also keep records and provide information.
For the above purpose, each broadcast entity and website owner or administrator shall submit to the Commission a certified true copy of its broadcast logs, certificates of performance, or other analogous record, including certificates of acceptance as required in Section 7(b) of these Guidelines, for the review and verification of the frequency, date, time and duration of advertisements aired for any candidate or party through:
For website owners or administrators – The City/Municipal Election Officer (EO) concerned, who in turn, shall furnish copies thereof to the Education and Information Department (EID) of the Commission which in turn shall furnish copies thereof to the Campaign Finance Unit (CFU) of the Commission within five (5) days from the receipt thereof.
All broadcast entities shall preserve their broadcast logs for a period of five (5) years from the date of broadcast for submission to the Commission whenever required.
The act also includes social media networks and micro-blogs, albeit doesn’t specify whether an electoral candidate is required to label its own profiles as “political advertising” or “election propaganda”, which should effectively prohibit candidates from tweeting or updating their Facebook profile on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, eve of Election Day, and on Election Day.
No mention in the act covers whether candidates, or their online media practitioners, can create mobile applications which fall outside of these guidelines. In fact it seems that mobile applications fall outside of the definitions of the Resolution No. 9615.
While we applaud the effort by COMELEC to try to regulate campaigning, despite the still omnipresent and often blatant epal all over the country, once more we are confronted with a lack of understanding of the internet and an attempt to copy rules from the offline world to the internet. As someone replied on Facebook, A for effort.
At least COMELEC isn’t alone in its need for internet specialists. They share their lack of understanding about how the internet works with BIR Chief Kim Jacinto-Henares.
- I am not a lawyer and may be wrong [↩]