Comelec orders survey firms to disclose subscribers

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By Mikha Flores, VERA Files

The Commission on Elections has directed survey firms to disclose the names of subscribers of their published pre-election surveys so it can keep track of the candidates’ spending.

The poll body promulgated Tuesday Resolution 9674 requiring the Social Weather Stations (SWS), Pulse Asia and other firms to submit the names of those who commission and subscribe to their surveys. The resolution applies retroactively to surveys published from February 12, the start of the campaign period.

“The amount spent by candidates and political parties for surveys…forms part of their campaign expenditure which must be disclosed by the candidates and reported by the survey firms to Comelec,” the resolution states.

It says: “The Commission takes cognizance of the influence of surveys in shaping the preference of voters, which therefore calls for a more transparent process in the generation of such survey results.”

Navotas Representative Tobias Tiangco, campaign manager of the United Nationalist Alliance, had asked Comelec to compel survey firms to reveal their list of subscribers after recent polls showed that administration bets were coming out strong in the surveys.

Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes said the rules will also cover subscribers who are not running in the May 13 elections. He assured that the names of the subscribers will be kept confidential and will only be for Comelec’s “exclusive” use.

Survey commissioners or sponsors are individuals or groups who pay to include their own questionnaires in the conduct of a survey. Commissioners are given exclusive access to the results of the questions they wanted to be asked.

Subscribers are those who pay survey firms to access raw data on non-commissioned surveys.

Comelec ruled to include subscribers since they indirectly form part of the income of survey firms. Incomes, according to the Comelec, are used to fund or finance non-commissioned surveys.

SWS lawyer Froilan Albert Bacungan earlier said they are not required to publish the names of subscribers, likening them to newspaper subscribers who are not accountable to anything the newspaper publishes.

(VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for true.)

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