NEWS17 June 2013

Comelec threatens criminal charges against survey firms

Asia Pacific Government Legal

PHILIPPINES — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the Philippines has threated criminal charges against survey firms unless they submit their subscriber lists to the authority.

Speaking on Saturday, the chairman of Comelec Sixto Brillantes said survey firms had yet to comply with an order from the electoral body to identify the “commissioners, payers and subscribers” of the pre-election surveys they conducted since 12 February.

“Our requirement is for survey companies to report to us the names of their subscribers. They have yet to comply with that,” Brillantes said in an interview with reporters in Manilla.

The move comes after survey firms, including Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia, had written to Brillantes asking for the implementation of Comelec Resolution 9674 to be put on hold as they looked to the Supreme Court for a ruling on the matter.

Under the resolution all subscribers will have to be named or violators may face up to six years in jail if charged with an election offence.

All reports from the survey companies would be kept confidential and would not be published, however, candidates who subscribe to any survey would have to include them in their campaign expenses report after the election.

SWS said it would challenge the order in Supreme Court but Brillantes said that there had been no restraining order from the court and added that survey companies that continued to defy Comelec could be charged with committing an election offense.

“There would be criminal liability. Maybe they just forgot,” Brillantes said.

At a hearing in March, SWS legal council Albert Bacungan denied that candidates were paying for surveys and that they are “paying a fee to obtain access to certain data on non-commissioned questionnaire items”.