COMELEC requires social media outfits to submit poll ad spending reports

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 21) — The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) said it has required social media outfits to submit validated reports on poll advertisement spending.

COMELEC Spokesperson James Jimenez said this is a way by which they can regulate campaign spending in the midterm elections.

"Ang tendency ngayon, ipinapasok sa social media 'yung advertising expenses nila. Ang problema po diyan, ang social media ay hindi regulated. Kung hindi siya regulated ay ibig sabihin, makakapagtago sila ng gastos diyan na hindi nila kinakailangang i-report sa SOCE (Statements of Contributions and Expenditures)," Jimenez told CNN Philippines' On the Record.

[Translation: The tendency now is to place advertising expenses in social media. But social media is not regulated, and that's a problem. THey can hide their campaign expenses and avoid reporting in their SOCE.]

Jimenez said they will be able to check which ads will be in support of the candidates. He said COMELEC may backtrack using boosted posts - or social media posts whose reach is increased when paid for.

"Makikita natin 'yan. At dahil ang boosting ay possible only if you have a page, then malalaman din natin kung saang nanggaling 'yung perang pangboost. Kung kaninong account. Kaya natin nire-require 'yung mga kandidato na magbigay ng kanilang social media pages, para alam natin kung saan tayo magsisimulang tumingin," Jimenez explained.

[Translation: We will spot it. And since boosting is possible only if you have a page, then we'll find out where the boosting fund came from, from which account. That's why we require candidates to give out their social media pages, so that we know where to begin our search.]

While Comelec would not be able to check individual activities in support of particular candidates on social media, Jimenez said they can cross-check ad spending of candidates with their submitted Statement of Campaign Expenditures after the elections.

Jimenez, however, admits there will be "guerilla" spending.

But he said Comelec regulations require advertisers and campaign contractors to submit their reports to the poll body. These will cover all personnel who perform services for the campaign, including social media associates such as so-called influencers.