Fintechs vow to fight vote buying as poll watchdogs await concrete steps

Warren de Guzman, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 01 2022 07:35 PM

MANILA - A group of fintech companies on Tuesday said they support the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ call to ensure that digital platforms are not used for vote-buying, even as poll watchdogs said they will wait for more concrete steps from the tech firms. 

FinTech Alliance.ph said it recognizes the industry's role in upholding clean, honest, and credible elections by ensuring that digital products, platforms, and services are not misused for vote-buying, vote-selling, and other illegal political partisan activities.

GCash, PayMaya, Bayad Center, GrabPay, The Overseas Filipino Bank, Tonik Bank, Coins.ph, Togetech Inc, and RCBC DiskarTech all pledged to support the advocacy for the responsible use of digital payment platforms as members of the Alliance and the Philippine E-money Association. 

BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno earlier called on financial institutions under its supervision to guard against digital vote buying and selling. 

FinTech Alliance said its members “have robust control mechanisms that can mitigate attempts to abuse digital fund transfer services.” 

The group cited “stringent onboarding processes”, which include one-is-to-one account registration and creation, robust electronic Know-YourCustomer, and account verification to track the identity and traceability of digital transactions.

It added that members have compliance measures and risk management systems, supported by advanced algorithms and security controls that can detect unusual or suspicious transactions. 

FinTech Alliance said its members will recalibrate their existing controls in detecting or preventing the possible surge in fraudulent accounts and transactions leading up to the national polls.

The group said it would use data on areas known for rampant vote-buying to help differentiate transactions.

“This also covers concentration and/or significant number of account registrations in areas identified to have rampant vote buying and selling, large cash transactions amid the election period, unusual transaction flows, and unusual volume and/or value in cash in/cash out channels,” the group said. 

Poll watchdog LENTE, or Legal Network for Truthful Elections, meanwhile said it will wait for what exactly the fintech firms will do to prevent their platforms from being used for electoral fraud.

"We look forward to the days and the weeks to know more about the process and different activities that the different associations coming together this morning will do to combat this problem of traditional vote buying and e-vote buying in the country,” said Atty. Ona Caritos, LENTE Philippines Executive Director. 

He noted that the use of e-money and e-payments boomed during the pandemic. 
 
“Maybe in the days to come or weeks to come we might hear more Filipinos saying 'I-transfer mo na lang' para sa vote buying and vote selling activities,” said Caritos. 

The National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections said vote buying and selling through digital platforms has become a major concern. 

"Cooperation amongst stakeholders is essential that these digital financial platforms will not be misused for nefarious activities," said NAMFEL chairman Gus Lagman. 

Meanwhile, a fintech player said that while it is possible to track unusual e-money transfers during the poll season, linking this to vote buying and selling is not so easy. 

In an interview with ABS-CBN, Dominick Danao, CEO of fintech firm Magpie, said that while large money transfers may arouse suspicion, distinguishing between illegal and legitimate uses for these transfers is difficult.

“Hindi rin nila masasabi (They can’t tell either),” Danao said about those tracking these transfers.

He said that a political operator can also say that the money being sent through e-wallets was meant for poll watchers, or other legitimate expenses. 

The BSP said it has joined forces with the Anti-Money Laundering Council, and the NBI to fight the use of digital platforms in vote buying.

One in five payments in the Philippines is now done digitally, with InstaPay transactions overtaking ATM withdrawals as early as 2020, the BSP said in October last year. 

GCash has around 55 million users while PayMaya is used by over 41 million Filipinos. 

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