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Poll body seeks tie-up with Google vs ‘epal’ pols

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is seeking to partner with search engine giant Google Inc. to gain access to whatever advertising contracts that candidates for the 2016 elections may sign with the company.

The Comelec is also appealing to voters’ and media firms’ moral convictions to help stop the onslaught of “epal” politicians’ advertisements before the start of the campaign.

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Speaking at the “Meet Inquirer Multimedia” forum, Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim said the poll body would be talking with the local arm of Google, which also runs one of the biggest advertising platforms online, Google Ads.

“We hope we can tie up with Google, which has a presence in the Philippines, so we can get the contracts submitted for the ad placements on websites. Because if they are a contractor and you are paid for advertisements, then you are required to submit reports to us,” Lim told reporters, editors and other employees of the Inquirer Group of Companies who attended the event.

The agreement is in relation to Comelec’s enforcement of election laws, particularly those limiting spending of candidates for their campaigns.

However, Lim, who also leads the campaign finance unit of the Comelec, admitted that it would be difficult to police online advertisements, since it would be hard to chase advertising companies based overseas.

“The problem with the Internet is it’s a global phenomenon. How do we mandate the submission of contracts if candidates are dealing with Amazon or some other international website,” he said.

Premature campaigning

He noted that it would be better for candidates to build an official page in social media sites, such as Twitter or Facebook, where they can outline their programs as part of personal expression.

“But if they pay for the social media companies to make their names or pages trend, that’s another story,” Lim said.

Comelec Chair Andres Bautista, who was also a guest at the forum, said election laws could do only so much to prevent premature campaigning before the election period.

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“Basically, there is no such animal as premature campaigning. It could happen only in the election period. There’s really a loophole in the laws and we need to ask Congress to amend the law,” Bautista said.

Loopholes

While the law itself has loopholes allowing premature campaigning before the election period, Bautista urged voters and media companies to use their moral compass in judging the so-called “epal” candidates who take out infomercials early on.

“It’s not a legal question, but a moral question. Perhaps voters should take these infomercials into account when they are deciding whom to vote,” he said.

“But if broadcast stations think it’s morally wrong, maybe they should stop accepting these kinds of infomercials as well,” he added.

Lim said the educated may be receptive to the Comelec’s campaign against epals.

“For the voters, the more educated ones, they will be able to discern easier the politicians who seem to want to get an advantage in taking out these advertisements. They could then question the intentions and the funds of the politicians,” Lim told the Inquirer on the sidelines of the event.

“But it’s a different story in rural areas, where the candidates with the most posters are seen as really determined to win the votes of the people. So we have to change that mentality. And the media can help in educating voters in that sense,” he added.

Lim said media companies should ponder over whether they would let profit or morality rule the day.

“They have to balance profit versus morality. But at the end of the day, the questions should be where they get funds to pay for these advertisements. What if the contents of their statement of assets and liabilities do not match their capability to take out those ads,” Lim said.

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TAGS: Andres Bautista, Christian Robert Lim, Comelec, Epal, epal politicians, google, Google Ads, Media, Morality, politicians, Politics
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