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Thursday, June 24, 2021

#Eleksyon2022 Digital-itics: 2022 Presidential Election will be digital

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Jiggy Calucag
Dreamer. Youth Leader. Advocate. Liberal.

Recent developments in Philippines politics create noises that signal that the next Presidential election is already inevitable. Sen. Manny Pacquiao has sworn in as the new President of the PDP-Laban, the party in power, with the House Speaker as its new Executive Vice President. The tirades against the Vice President is sustained, coming from no less than the Chief Executive. He even threatened that if VP Robredo opted to run in presidential derby, he’ll make it hell for her. Truly, election is here.

Campaigning is digital, period

If there’s one thing that the previous two (2) elections have proven, it’s that the electoral landscape has changed. The election of President Duterte in 2016 is largely due to the advent of social media. In fact, his electoral campaign introduced and proliferated the use of online “fake news” or “disinformation” that became instrumental to his electoral victory. Until now, his political lieutenants adhere to, and practice that politics. One has to ask why the sudden shift from social media? For one, it is a lot cheaper than the trad media. Secondly, you can laser-target your message to your desired audience. Targeting and segmentation move the needle of the campaign. Lastly, saturation wise, the message sticks in social media for long, as opposed to traditional media that lasts for only 24 hours.

More importantly, the audience is already in social media. In the 2020 We are Social, it was stated that the “people in the Philippines top the daily usage charts, spending an average of nine hours and 45 minutes per day online…. The internet is now firmly embedded within TV habits with two-thirds of the world’s internet users aged 16 to 64 now watching TV content streamed over the internet.”

The report added that the Southeast Asia demonstrates an interesting and thriving digital landscape. Pinoys are power-users of the internet with nearly 10 hours a day spent online. The Philippines is also the most “social” corner of the globe with Filipinos spending the most time on social media globally; and Indonesians in fifth.

What does this say? Forming a formidable online and digital team is the special force of one’s entire camp in 2022 national and local elections. Inevitably, 2022 is also a battle of database. Utilizing at best these database systems is crucial in getting votes.

Transparency in digital campaign spending

No doubt that 2022 election candidates will increasingly shift its focus to digital campaigning. Our social media world will surely be filled with politics and insidious propaganda. This would not happen without well-oiled operations. By implication, larger funds from candidates’ campaign war chest will be channeled to online campaigning.   

An academe and media experts group made a study of how disinformation affected the 2019 elections, thus, calling for greater transparency in the campaign spending of the candidates. They monitored that disinformation grew in the months leading to 2019 polls. All of these didn’t catch Comelec’s attention; this is a loophole that political operators will surely exploit. Currently, the COMELEC resolution only looks into the spending of the candidate’s social media handles. It does not cover informal work arrangements” such as the use of Facebook ads, “influencer” collaborations and political consultancies with public relations (PR) firms, which the researchers said, usually do not have formal documentation.

COMELEC simply has to up the game, and make rules on unchartered territories of campaigning, in order to maintain any semblance of equal playing field.

Online registration #MagparehistroKa #BotoMoBosesMo #MasMaramiTayo

Although, to be fair, the COMELEC has finally been able to adopt to the challenges of the present, enabling online registration (of course, registrants need to appear before local poll office for biometrics) and accommodating millions of unregistered voters.

This move is laudable, although I believe this can still be elevated. For one, COMELEC can set up satellite registration centers to bring the registration closer to the people. Scheduling system for registrants is another important innovation that can be implemented. The entire COMELEC body has to be active campaigners of voter registration. They can forge partnerships with social media influencers. It has to be stressed that the role of COMELEC is not merely to facilitate the polls; it should function as the institution that serves as the voice of democracy by making sure that eligible people will actually cast their ballots during election.

2022 elections campaign

Pundits say that authenticity will remain the currency to get the message out, and the team that offers a clear program of action and solutions to perceived weaknesses will win.

Accordingly, we should always be vigilant and critical about the current positioning of presumptive candidates. For instance, Sen. Pacquiao’s election in the party leadership of PDP-Laban should be read not as an innocent move. Whatever this political move entails, it is surely for his plans in 2022. One may actually suppose that it is a move to signify in their supermajority coalition that he is ready and able to become the administration’s standard bearer for 2022 election. However, it’s interesting how the President will handle the egos and interests in his supermajority coalition. The way the President dances with these egos and negotiate these interests will dictate the shape of the incoming election. Of course, an opposition candidate is given.

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