For the first time, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will regulate even online campaign gimmicks of political candidates — except, however, on social networking sites.
Under Resolution No. 9615 released for the 2013 elections, the Comelec has included "online election propaganda" to television, print and radio advertisements as a campaign medium to be regulated.
Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said they can only issue clear guidelines on social networking sites upon implementation of the resolution during the campaign period.
He said they needed at the least 15 days at the onset of the the campaign period to check how politicians abused social networking sites for their campaign gimmicks.
"This is new, this is something innovative, itong social media. Kay dapat titingnan muna natin, hindi pwedeng detalye agad. We will see how effective it is during the start of the campaign period," Brillantes said.
"Resolution naman namin 'yan eh. Which means we can always supplement or amend it as we move on. Meron bang mag-aabuso? What is abuse?" he added.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez it is important to regulate online campaign. "Of course you need to regulate online campaigning... You still generate expense when you advertise online. So that has to be regulated," he said.
He noted though that they have yet to decide if social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter will be regulated.
"Hindi mo na nga ire-regulate completely kasi siyempre may mga puwang, especially Twitter, Facebook," Jimenez said.
According to the resolution, Comelec will allow online advertisements in the form of pop-ups, rectangles, banners, buttons, and skyscrapers. (See table.)
Meanwhile, netizens promoting politicians through Facebook or Twitter will not be held liable for illegal campaigning as it forms part of their freedom of expression, Brillantes said.
As for politicians campaigning through Facebook or Twitter, Brillantes said they will consider it as part of their election expense. But the poll body has yet to decide on how to charge social networking sites, where one can apply for an account for free.
A separate Comelec Resolution No. 9476 requires president and vice president candidates to spend P10 for every registered voter, candidates with political parties to spend P3 each voter, and independent candidates with just P5 per voter.
Brillantes remains hopeful however that despite limitations, their resolution will deter excessive online campaigning.
Meanwhile, the Fair Elections Act allows only 120 minutes of television and 180 minutes of radio advertisements to each candidate and registered political party. Local candidates are only allowed 60 minutes on television and 90 minutes on radio.
The latest Comelec resolution now requires that the maximum minutes be made "aggregate," meaning candidates are allowed that amount of time for each major station only. Previous elections allow prescribed amount of time for each station, including regional ones.
Brillantes believes the 2013 elections will see less political advertisements due to their amendments.
"We'll see less political ads this year. 120 of TV and 180 min of radio advertising for national candidates (and 60 minutes for TV and 90 minutes of radio advertisements for local candidates) are now 'aggregate.' NO LONGER per station as in previous years," the poll chief tweeted.
He reminded that the new rules will only apply during the campaign period, which will start on February 12 for national candidates and March 29 for local ones.
Comelec has no formal definition of premature campaigning as Republic Act 9369 or the Automation Law defines an candidate as being official once the campaign period starts. This means Comelec's hands are tied when it comes to regulating campaigning prior to the prescribed period