I’m currently going over COMELEC Resolution No. 9615 which spells out the rules and regulations for the “Fair Election Act”. This is the first time that COMELEC included digital platforms in their rules so it’s important that we take a look into this as an industry and try to help them revise and craft better rules if needed.
Personal Opinons are exempted
Before we get into a discussion on the COMELEC infringing on our freedom of expression, let’s note that in Section 1. Definitions our fundamental rights are protected. It says:
Personal opinons, views, and preferences for candidates, contained in blogs shall not be considered acts of election campaigning or partisan political activity unless expressed by government officials in the Executive Department, the Legislative Department, the Judiciary, the Constitutional Commissions, and the members of Civil Service.
Two thumbs up to COMELEC for spelling this out clearly in the resolution.
Provision on online ads appearing only three times a week per website
What I found weird is the provision on online election propaganda, section 9 c. Here’s what it says:
Said online advertisement, whether procured by purchase, or given free of charge, shall not be published more than three times a week per website during the campaign period.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 hours period, shall be construed as one instance of publication.
I have a few questions about this. For example, what if I am a supporter and I have a site and I want to put a banner ad on my sidebar. Does that mean I have to take it down 4 days out of the week to comply with the 3-instance rule? Or does this rule apply only to commercial sites and publications?
Another issue I foresee is that this obviously doesn’t take into account how ad networks operate. The exact timing of the appearance of the ad is not fully in the control of the advertiser… unless we’re forced to set budget and just make sure they run in three-day periods and not have ads running for the balance week.
Lastly, what if ads are placed by supporters? Facebook and Google are self-service ad platforms. Anybody can just put up an ad there to support a candidate. Does that count to the 3-instance rule? @_@
Facebook Ads copy will be littered with “Paid for by…”
Section 7 A. states:
It shall likewise be unlawful to publish, print or distribute campaign materials unless they bear and are identified by the reasonably legible or audible words “political advertisements paid by,” followed by the true and correct name and address of the payor.
For Facebook Ads we only have 90 characters for the body text. Just the initial “political advertisements paid by” is 32 characters already. That doesn’t even include the name and address of the payor.
Website owners and publishers need to submit Reports and Certificates to COMELEC
Now this is important for publishers, bloggers, website owners, agencies, etc. There’s a need now to submit reports to COMELEC to confirm the frequency of the ads. It should have frequency, date, time, and duration.
For the above purpose, each broadcast entity and website owner or administrator shall submit to the Commissiona 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:
Still digesting everything else
I’m still going over the rules but these are my initial thoughts so far. What do you guys think? Click here to download full document of COMELEC Resolution No. 9615.