Closer look: The pledge Comelec is asking political aspirants to sign

October 3, 2021 - 1:48 PM
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In this Oct. 2, 2021 photo, broadcaster Raffy Tulfo signs Comelec's Integrity Pledge. (The STAR/Ernie Peñaredondo)

Political aspirants for the 2022 elections are highly encouraged to read and sign the integrity pledge of the Commission on Elections which notes that they should not be engaged in misinformation and its dissemination to the public.

During the period of the filing of the Certificate of Candidacy, some aspirants go on stage and give statements. Before they do this, they go through the pledge next to the stage, which reads:

As a political party/candidate, seeking office, we/I recognize and acknowledge that the leadership role we/I aspire to creates the legal and moral obligation to hold ourselves/myself to a higher standard of integrity; that by asking the Filipino voters to favor us/me with their mandate, we/I accept the corresponding burden of ensuring that we/I am fully worthy of the public trust; that we/I will not aid or tolerate those who seek to undermine our elections and our democracy, in any way. 

In all things, We/I shall abide by the laws and the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, respecting the sanctity of elections, and rejecting without any reservation, the use of violence, force, or threats to influence the outcome of elections. 

We/I categorically declare that our/my campaign shall fully respect the will of the electorate and not seek to unduly influence them by offering money, influence, or other things of value, in exchange for votes. 

Neither shall we/I attempt to mislead or misinform the public through the use of falsified, fabricated, manipulated, or stolen information. We/I shall avoid the dissemination of altered and manipulated, or stolen information. We/I shall avoid the dissemination of altered and manipulate media that impersonate other candidates, including deep-fake videos. 

We/I commit to make transparent the use of any coordinate network activity to disseminate messages; avoid using such networks to attack opponents and other electoral stakeholders, or coordinate third-parties, proxies or fake accounts to undertake these actions. We/I shall take active steps to maintain good cyber-hygiene, such as regular cybersecurity checks and password protection, and train campaign staff in media literacy and risk awareness, in order to recognize and prevent attacks; as we/I shall ensure transparency in sources of campaign financing, including online political advertising purchases, in an effort to maximize public trust in the electoral process. 

And in this era of pandemic, we/I shall be constantly mindful of the public health risks associated with political campaigning, and shall religiously adhere to the minimum health and safety protocols, as well as all other applicable guidelines issued by the appropriate health authorities and the Commission on Elections, enjoining all, to Vote S.A.F.E., Pilipinas. 

All these, we/I commit and subscribe to, freely and voluntary, with no purpose of evasion, fully accountable to the Filipino people as our/my witnesses. 

Blogger and columnist Noemi Dado emphasized the part talking about disinformation and tweeted, “Let’s remind them about integrity.”

“Before candidates go up the stage, they read and sign the integrity pledge. One pledge is they shall ‘not attempt to mislead or misinform the public through the use of falsified, fabricated, manipulated, or stolen information…’. #fightdisinfo #juanvote,” she added.

In a past interview, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that the integrity pledge is not a requirement in the COC filing but said that they “believe that it adds something to the credibility of the elections.”

“We think that it elevates the level of participation not just of the voters… We always say that the people must be mature, principled voters. But there must be a corresponding responsibility on the side of the people running for office and we think this Integrity Pledge will be a good catalyst to bring that out,” he added before.

Jimenez previously said that all aspirants, regardless of their positions, will be requested to sign the pledge. He added that copies would also be sent to local Comelec offices to be signed by local political bets.

He also said that the integrity pledge is “not a legal document.”

Meanwhile, a political science scholar said the proliferation of fake news is expected to get worse in the 2022 elections against the backdrop of a pandemic.

Policies on keeping distance between individuals and other pandemic-related protocols during campaigns and election day push political operators to be “more subtle” in handing out bribes, according to Arjan Aguirre, a political science faculty member at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Smear campaigns may also gain traction online as some candidates will be forced to allocate more funds in cyber operations with voters still confined indoors because of the pandemic, he added.