By Addison Pascua

PHOTO: Rappler

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has vowed to file criminal charges against five individuals who peddled false information online regarding the May 9 polls, Commissioner George Garcia said Wednesday.

According to Garcia, he already referred the five disinformation incidents to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) last week which “really undermined the integrity and credibility of our electoral process.” “In the next succeeding days, even after the elections, expect that we will be filing cases against these individuals simply because what they did was wrong. They are saying the results are already in, that they are shading the original ballot,” the head of the poll body’s task force said in an online forum. “Once we have filed the case, we can serve the warrant of arrest that will be issued by the courts,” he added. One of the alleged false information posts that recently circulated on social media was a photo showing an overseas voting ballot in New Zealand that did not include Vice President Leni Robredo’s name among the printed presidential candidates. The Comelec, nonetheless, immediately discovered that the photo was edited by a person who was already traced by the poll body. Garcia also repudiated malicious claims that there were already results of the elections and that the names of some candidates have been pre-shaded in the election ballots. “Information is an oxygen of democracy. That means that, as an oxygen of democracy, information must be truthful. The Comelec will watch everything as far as those untruthful information are concerned,” he said. The commissioner reminded the public that a maximum of six years imprisonment may be imposed on individuals who are found guilty of spreading disinformation among voters under the Omnibus Election Code. Garcia, however, clarified that the Comelec is open to receiving criticisms from the public, saying that they are only against fake news or false information. “We are fighting fake news. We are not fighting commentaries against the Comelec. Those who make commentaries whether against us or in our favor, don’t be afraid. You’re free to do so... We will not even file cases against you. That is part of the guarantee of our democracy,” he reiterated. “The Comelec would like to 100% guarantee to everyone that we will always observe constitutional due process. Everybody will be afforded due process,” Garcia assured.
Early last month, the Comelec established a task force to fight fake news and disinformation that seek to undermine the credibility of the upcoming May 9 elections.

Edited by Danfe Lean Grace R. Elopre