Presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said the Google PH plan to ban on its platform political advertising in the May 2022 elections will help prevent online trolls from misleading the public.

The internet tech giant said  it would stop accepting political ads in the Philippines during the campaign season for the 2022 elections. It plans to ban political advertising on its platform from February 8 to May 9, 2022.

Lacson, who is running  under Partido Reporma, said it is about time social media owned up tomore responsibility, particularly against trolls who spread fake news against candidates.

He  and running mate Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, who is seeking the Vice Presidency under the Nationalist People’s Coalition, noted that in Australia, there is proposed legislation to unmask online trolls by holding social media giants like Facebook and Twitter responsible for identifying them.

Lacson said they will stick to issues and not personalities, as far as their campaigning is concerned, and not go down to gutter politics.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) welcomes Google’s plan as the poll body faces an uphill challenge to regulate political advertisements online, in the absence of legislation that would empower them to do so.

“The concern has always been that ads on the internet are unregulated, and people are concerned that we will be overwhelmed by those ads. The concerns that this will unbalance the playing field are well-founded,” said Comelec spokesman James Jimenez.

“Obviously, if you have more money for ads, you get more airtime on the internet. Airtime on the internet, while it is cheaper than broadcast advertising, that still adds up to a lot of money. This will be a big help for everyone,” he added.

Jimenez clarified that the Comelec did not make any request for Google to make such a move and was not consulted ahead of the announcement.

The Google announcement was in line with a law that prohibits political advertising ahead of the campaign period for the May 9 vote. 

The Comelec set February 8 as the start of the campaign for  presidential and senate elections and March 25 for congressional and all other posts.

Google PH said the new policy will apply to election advertisements “purchased through Google Ads, Display and Video 360, and Shopping platforms that advertisers intend to place on Google, YouTube, and partner properties.”

“Ahead of the official campaign period from February 8 to May 9, 2022, many politicians haveshifted to social media to mount their 2022 campaign, especially with pandemic-driven mobility restrictions,” Google also said. 

But campaign strategists and major political camp managers in the upcoming elections are unfazed by the Google’s ban.

Lito Banayo, campaign manager of Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso said it doesn’t affect them big time as they rely on the Facebook followers of his running-mate Doc Willie Ong.

He noted that their political ads were being carried  mostly by  Youtube and Google platforms because  of their advocacies. In Facebook, Domagoso has 5.7 million followers and Ong, 16 million.

Banayo believes that the lawyers of all camps must have a dialogue with Comelec because of the very limiting restrictions they issued on campaigning.

Team Manny Pacquiao stated, We are not affected because we have yet to run ads on social media and even in traditional media so, if you notice Manny Pacquiao does not have many commercials on TV, radio and even online. Their strategy  is to really go down to the grassroots level.

The administration camp led by the PDP-Laban Cusi Wing Secretary-General Melvin Matibag said they are more conventional and conservative when it comes to holding their events and the campaign. “Maybe there will be an effect but as to how big, that’s another question,” he further stated.

Partido Lakas ng Masa presidential candidate  Leody de Guzman not only welcomed the decision but also called on Comelec to ban all commercial political ads. 

He said candidates of billionaires take advantage of the lack of law against premature campaigning. “TV, social media and radio drown in political ad. They have far more commercials than soaps and shampoos.”

Poll watchdog Kontra Daya convenor Danny Arao said, “This can help curb disinformation, especially red-tagging which causes human rights violations, including murder,” said Arao told.

“It is a good breather as regards potential disinformation, and other platforms like Facebook, Twitter and TikTok should follow suit,” he added.

However, some experts believe  the ban will be disadvantageous to candidates with smaller resources, especially those who cannot afford airtime on television and radio. Since Filipinos are heavy internet users, they cited the increasing number of political advertisements in digital platforms.

To  avert the spread of disinformation on the election outcome, Google PH  also prohibited

political advertising in Canada, Singapore, and even after the US elections in 2021 elections. 

President Rodrigo Duterte emerged as winner in the 2016 Philippine election, boosted by campaign on social media during that time when online misinformation was prevalent.