MANILA, Philippines – Survey firms Pulse Asia and Social Weather Station (SWS) on Tuesday declined to say whether there were politicians among their subscribers who pay in order to get access to certain unpublished data.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said a letter from United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) spokesman and Navotas Representative Tobias Tiangco asking to clarify the way election surveys were conducted prompted the poll body to hold the hearing.
“Our position is that subscribers pay only to get access to data that has not been published,” SWS counsel Froilan Albert Bacungan said at the hearing.
“The law does not require us to disclose the subscribers precisely because it is our position that they did not pay for the survey,” he added.
Pulse Asia was also present at the hearing and held the same position of SWS.
Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. however said that subscribers who pay the research firm to obtain data are in effect funding them so they can conduct more surveys.
“The amount that is given by way of subscription goes into the common fund of the survey entity, therefore when you conduct your own survey you are using the funds of your subscribers,” Brillantes said at the hearing.
“Effectively, it is the subscribers’ money that is being used for the political surveys,” he said.
Brillantes told reporters after the hearing that it is important to know who the subscribers are so as to remove doubts on the objectivity of the survey firm.
“Can you just imagine if the [sources] of subscriptions are the political parties and the candidates? Of course there will be a question on their voter’s preference (survey results),” he said.
The Comelec will deliberate on the matter and could issue a resolution compelling the survey firms to disclose their subscribers.
“If we feel they have to disclose [the names of subscribers], we can order them, if they will not, we can prosecute them for violations of the law,” Brillantes said.
“If candidates pay subscription [to get survey results], they will have declare that as an election expense and it will have to come out in their contributions and expenditures statement post-elections,” he said.