Facebook all you can

By: Connie Fernandez-Brojan and Joey A. Gabieta May 08,2018 - 11:05 PM


CANDIDATES have found a way to have unlimited mileage without violating election laws: Facebook.

Several candidates have posted their campaign photos and materials on their Facebook accounts and asked their friends to “share” their posts for wider reach.

The bonus is that posting campaign materials on the popular networking site doesn’t violate the Fair Elections Act which regulates campaign materials.

Republic Act 9006 was enacted on Feb. 12, 2001 when there was still no Facebook, local officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said.

“Usually, the Comelec issues guidelines on online campaign. But for this (barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan) elections, there’s no regulation (on online campaign),” said lawyer Ferdinand Gujilde, Cebu provincial election officer.

He pointed out that campaigning on Facebook falls under the category of freedom of expression where account holders can issue commentaries involving public issues.

Asked if it was tantamount to skirting around the Fair Elections Act,

Gujilde admitted that it could be taken as such but in cases of doubt, the Supreme Court has always upheld freedom of expression.

In the absence of regulation, he added, there was no violation.

Lawyer Ma. Corazon Montallana, elections supervisor for Leyte, agreed with Gujilde.

“There is no regulation formulated by the Comelec on the use of social media as a platform for campaigning,” she said.

“Sharing it in Facebook, it’s free. This is part of the continuing progress in communications,” Montallana said.

Fast dissemination

For candidates, Facebook has been a great help in their campaign without additional cost.

Blessilda “Bingol” Villo, who is running for barangay captain in Tayud, Consolacion town in northern Cebu, said it was easy to disseminate their platform of government through Facebook because almost everyone has an account.

Villo, who was village chief of Tayud from 2010 to 2013, recalled that it used to take a long time to explain their plans for the barangay when she first ran for the position.

“But now, they (electorate) tell us that they know what we are talking about because they read it on (our) Facebook (post),” she told Inquirer in a phone interview.

Since they didn’t have to spend more time to explain their plans and vision, Villo said they could cover more grounds in their house-to-house visits.
Facebook campaign also doesn’t entail additional cost because almost every household has their own internet connection or has a bundled Wi-Fi load.

“There is no add-on cost because we manage our own individual accounts. The scope is also big because anyone can share our posts,” Villo said.

For candidates with almost no financial resources, Facebook is a great help, said Gregorio “Greg” Osorio Jr., who is running for councilor in Barangay Dunggo-an, Danao City.

In a Facebook chat with Inquirer, he said the social networking site was a great help in informing and spreading the word on his candidacy.

Since posting on Facebook is free, he added, he could explain his candidacy without having to spend more.

Candidates were also using Facebook to complement with the traditional campaign strategies — house-to-house, pulong-pulong (dialogues) and handshaking.

“I also do the house-to-house campaigning but considering that there are voters in our village who are studying outside our village, I have to resort to Facebook just to reach out to them,” said Mateo Rosales, 21, and a candidate for SK chair in Barangay 5, Balangiga town in Eastern Samar.

Handshaking is better

But he said he didn’t flood the accounts of his Facebook friends with his campaign materials.

“I am just doing this campaigning in my own wall. I have received several likes from my friends, voters. So I guess, they will support me,” Rosales said.

The wide reach of Facebook pushed Rania Cinco, an SK chair candidate in Barangay 27, Tacloban City, to campaign online.

“We have several voters who now lives in other barangays, even in Manila. I want them to know that I am a candidate for SK chairman and hopefully (get their votes),” she said.

But Mark Escol, a candidate for village chairman in Barangay 55 also in Tacloban, still prefers the traditional campaign strategy.

“I want to talk with them personally, shake with their hands and to personally tell them on what I intend to accomplish if they will elect me,” Escol said.

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