IT is no longer a surprise to see candidates to the barangay and youth elections use social media to promote themselves and seek votes.

What would be a wonderful surprise is if these young candidates and slightly older bets for barangay councilor and chairman were to use the platform to teach the public about the responsibilities and proper use of social media.

Candidates will not rely on the usual campaign materials of jingles, posters and tarpaulins because they know voters are on social media. Given the short campaign period, it is also through social media that they could reach a wider and younger audience.

Voters in the barangays, the smallest political unit in the country, will elect their councilors and chairman and, for young voters, their Sangguniang Kabataan members, on May 14. Campaign period started last May 4 and will run until May 12 or two days before election day.

With an expected rise in online activity by people campaigning for votes, the police anti-cybercrime group warned of online bullying by or of election candidates and encouraged those bashed on social media to press criminal charges against culprits.

The kind of bullying that may happen during the campaign period could constitute online libel, defined in the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, or Republic Act no. 10175, as the “unlawful or prohibited acts of libel under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.”

The penal code lists the elements of libel as a defamatory statement, malice, publication and that the subject is identifiable. Penalty for online libel is up to eight years in prison, double the four-year jail term for libel committed in print or on broadcast media.

Technology has always been described as the great equalizer where candidates both rich and poor can have the same access to the audience and the same reach. They have the same opportunities to publish online and immediately, and do live reporting on video. They also face the same troubles.

Social media decorum dictates accountability, transparency, and accuracy of information. Candidates have to be responsible for his or her posts; they should check the veracity of information before sharing or passing on to supporters and the electorate; and they must let readers know of supporters or digital warriors working for them.

Candidates should take care that what they use – figures, other information that describe their programs for the barangay - is accurate and can be attributed to the proper source. They should never spread wrong information or encourage discussion with the use of manipulated numbers. If a mistake is committed, a correction must be made. They should be decent and not resort to name-calling and bullying.

It would be great to see an improvement in the quality of discussions on social media with candidates taking the lead and showing the electorate why they are worthy of the vote.

The senators should spare their former colleague and talk to his boss instead. In Davao City on Friday, Duterte assured the nation of China’s noble intentions. “China said, ‘we will protect you. We will not allow the Philippines to be destroyed. We are just here and you can call four help anytime’.”

So there. Those missiles are for us, not against us. They are meant to thwart any threat of external aggression to the Philippines. But threat from whom?