THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) is planning to lobby the next Congress to pass a law that will give the agency power to go after individuals who spread fake news and misuse social media during campaign periods, an election commissioner said.
“We will push congress to push a law specifically for trolls during the campaign period… We have to enact social media regulation in the Philippines, as far as the campaign period is concerned,” Comelec Commissioner George Erwin M. Garcia told ABS-CBN News Channel on Monday.
He noted that it is difficult to prosecute internet trolls under existing cyber libel laws.
The election body earlier created a task force that would go after individuals who spread fake news about electoral processes.
“We should be given more teeth to prosecute these individuals, political parties, and contributors,” Mr. Garcia said.
Most instances of disinformation on social media platforms during the campaign period for the May 9 elections were directed against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo, who ran for president, according to a study conducted by academe-media fact-checking project Tsek.ph.
The fact-checking initiative also said unfounded claims and historical inaccuracies about President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr.’s family have been posted on social media platforms.
Mr. Garcia added that Comelec is probing about 1,000 vote-buying cases and have issued subpoenas to several respondents.
As of Monday noon, out of the 1,110 reports sent to the election body’s vote-buying task force, 210 complainants have been asked to file affidavits together with evidence, Acting Comelec spokesman John Rex C. Laudiangco told reporters in a Viber message.
The election body had also resolved 370 out of 1,954 cases of overspending from past elections, and 206 out of 544 disqualification cases, he reported.
Mr. Laudiangco also said there are 24 cases of overspending filed this year against candidates who failed to submit their spending reports on two previous occasions.
Under election law and a Supreme Court ruling, candidates who fail to file their Statements of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) twice are liable to an administrative fine of up to P60,000 and perpetual disqualification from public office.
Mr. Garcia earlier reminded this year’s candidates to submit their SOCE by June 8.
Meanwhile, Comelec streamed live on Monday the decommissioning of the automated election system servers and networks that were used in the May 9 elections.
“The process is part of post-election procedures and in highlighting transparency, it is open to witnesses though not for live broadcast coverage due to security considerations,” Comelec acting spokesman John Rex C. Laudiangco told reporters in a Viber message.
“The data centers, similar to the transparency server, have already served their purposes for this elections, thus, necessitating their decommissioning.”
All winners in the national and local polls have been proclaimed.
Election Commissioner George Erwin M. Garcia earlier said this year’s voting results were transmitted faster that past elections given improved equipment and more skilled electoral board members.
Election watchdogs and political experts, however, have noted reports of voting machine and SD card malfunctions.
Comelec replaced more than 900 defective vote-counting machines, while 469 SD cards were regenerated on election day.
Election Commissioner Marlon S. Casquejo said the old vote-counting machines would be replaced before the 2025 mid-term elections.
Comelec’s private contractor, Smartmatic SGO, has also been accused of negligence after a data breach was reported when a former Smartmatic employee downloaded potentially sensitive information from a company laptop.
“There is an ongoing investigation on the data breach, but definitely, I can promise you we will be transparent and reveal what happened in these investigations,” Mr. Garcia told the ABS-CBN News Channel on Monday. — John Victor D. Ordonez