'I'm an IT illiterate,' poll chief says

·Kim Arveen Patria

He may be the point person for the automated elections in May, but the poll chief admitted that he seems to be grasping at straws when it comes to technology.

Still, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. knows that social media will change the landscape of the national and local polls.

Speaking at the Social Media Elections Conference Thursday, the 73-year-old Brillantes said he was an "IT (information technology) illiterate" when appointed poll chief.

"The only thing I new about social media was that it was used intermittently in our elections of 2010," Brillantes said in the event sponsored by the U.S. Embassy.

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"[N]ow we're going to the 2013 elections... and everybody's talking about social media," the poll chief said further.

This trend, he said, led to his own foray into social networking sites.

The poll chief launched his official Twitter account @ChairBrillantes in September last year, attracting hundreds of followers in less than three hours.

Brillantes said he had help and encouragement from his staff, composed mostly of young lawyers.

"[W]hen I opened it (Twitter), in less than five hours I was deluged with so many questions and I said 'Close it again, please,'" the poll chief shared, making the crowd laugh.

"I said I think I made a mistake--we made a mistake--in opening this Twitter account. But then I got accustomed to it," he added.

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Brillantes now believes that social media is "related directly" to Comelec's activities.

Social media allows the poll officials "to communicate continuously to the common people" outside Comelec, Brillantes said.

"It would seem that with social media now, we have direct access to people--those who know how to operate, those who have the answers, those who ask questions," he added.

Social media also makes communication with poll officials in the field easier, Brillantes said, noting that the country's archipelagic nature used to pose challenges.

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The poll chief also observed that "social media becomes the news" during election period.

This compelled Comelec to monitor not only election advertisements over traditional media but also those through the Internet, Brillantes said.

He said: "Every time we see somebody on social media using Twitter, we start questioning whether this candidate can use Twitter to give away gifts."

"When I made mention of this, it became the talk of the town for the past two days," Brillantes added.

He was referring to hullabaloo caused by reports that Sen. Jamby Madrigal is being probed for a possible violation of campaign rules for giving away an iPad in an online contest.

"This is the effect of social media," Brillantes said.

"There are so many complications regarding technology," he said further.

But Brillantes noted that social media is set to make monitoring of campaign and election violations more effective.

"We will be able to know what is happenning around us," he said.

The poll chief said he is also aware that all eyes are on Comelec as it prepares for the second automated election.

"There are so many issues being raised now about the automated elections," Brillantes said.

This, as he acknowledged the need to defend the poll body, which he said is "capable of handling" the election automation.

"We are all prepared for it," Brillantes said.

"There are technical issues involved but we should be able to have a successful 2013 second automated elections," he said further.

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