Comelec to create task force against vote buying

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 22 2022 04:57 PM

MANILA -- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will create a task force that will investigate and prosecute all reports and allegations of vote-buying during the 2022 elections, Commissioner George Garcia said Tuesday.

He made the statement in response to a video of Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla handing out cash prizes during a campaign rally of the tandem of presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and vice-presidential candidate Sara Duterte-Carpio.

“Magke-create ang commission ng task force para sa lahat ng ganiyang reports, complaints and whatever," said Garcia, a former lawyer of Marcos.

"The Comelec naman can motu proprio investigate. The Comelec can always direct its field personnel para mag-submit kaagad ng report sa atin. But magkaroon tayo ng task force para mas mabilis yung kilos natin," he added. 

(The commission will create a task force to address such reports, complaints and whatever. The Comelec can motu proprio investigate. The Comelec can always direct its field personnel to immediate submit reports to us. But we'll have a task force for quicker actions.)

The task force will have members coming also from the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Department of Justice, Garcia said.

VOTE-BUYING HAPPENS ONLY DURING OFFICIAL CAMPAIGN PERIOD

The veteran election lawyer turned poll executive, meanwhile, reminded the public that vote buying cannot be committed until the official campaign period begins. 

The official campaign period began on February 8 for national position candidates, and will begin this Friday, March 25, for local position aspirants.

“Likewise, para din sa kaalaman ng lahat, we should always be very careful din sa mga ganiyan dahil sa alam niyo naman yung mga pulitiko can always invoke the Pinera doctrine."

(Likewise, for everybody's knowledge, we should always be very careful about these reported incidents because you know that politicians can always invoke the Pinera doctrine.)

"Lagi natin pinapaalala Pinera doctrine. Technically kasi, 'di pa start ng campaign period para sa local. Ngayon pa lang, ang meron tayo national positions. Lagi nating iisipin rin yun," he said.

(We always remind everyone about the Pinera doctrine. Technically, the local campaign period has not yet started. What is ongoing now is for the national positions. So let us always remember that.)

Nonetheless, he said the Comelec will pursue vote-buying cases.

“Just the same, hindi po kami, hindi kami magdadalawang-isip na kasuhan yung involved sa vote-buying. We are so serious for this election. Kinakailangan (It's necessary that), to equalize everything, we will punish those who will be violating the Omnibus Election Code.” Garcia said.

(Just the same, we will not have second thoughts on filing cases against those involved in vote-buying.)

Vote-buying is a violation under the Omnibus Election Code. It is punishable by imprisonment, disqualification from public office and the loss of the right to vote.

Asked if the commission will make an example out of anyone, Garcia said, “Hindi rin tama yung word na masasampolan (It's not right to say that). Definitely, regardless of the personalities involved, so long as may (we have) sufficient evidence kami, substantial in character, we will push for the prosecution of offenders or those who will be guilty of vote buying.”

“We should always reconcile what is happening with our existing law. Kasi the problem kasi, malimit, bilang isang dating practitioner, kukuha ng magaling na lawyer ang isang pulitiko at makakakita ng loophole sa batas natin,” he added.

(The problem - being a former practitioner - is that, often times, a politician will get a good lawyer who will then find a loophole in the law.)

“Madali sabihin 'Vote buying na yan', but when appreciated by a court or appreciated by the Commission, 'di naman pala vote buying yun,” Garcia said.

(It's easy to say that's vote buying, but when appreciated by a court or appreciated by the Commission, it's not.)

Garcia bared that the poll body has monitored many alleged incidents of vote-buying.

“Marami pang namo-monitor din ang Commission na iba pang pangyayari na ganyan."

(The Commission has monitored many other incidents like that.)

"Sana nga, maliban sa directive namin sa aming mga local offices ng Comelec to submit reports involving vote buying, sana nga may mag-file ng complaint,” he said.

(I hope that aside from our directive to local offices of Comelec to submit reports involving vote buying, there will also be people who will file complaints.)

Garcia underscored the importance of filing formal complaints of vote-buying before the poll body.

“Kailangan namin ng complaint under oath. 'Yun, may mga ebidensiya naka-attach doon," he said.

(We need a complaint filed under oath. That one has attached pieces of evidence.)

"Kasi pag Comelec nagkalap ng report, post-acitivity report na yun. Samantalang kung may magco-complain na individuals, maganda po doon mismong nakuhanan pictures on that date, yung nakunanan nila ng affidavits ng tao on that date, maisasama yun."

(If it's the Comelec that gathers the report, that is just a post-activity report. But if there are individual complainants, it would be good to have photos taken during the incident and affidavits of people on that day.)

Last week, Garcia said those who sell their votes may be penalized.

“Para po sa mga kababayan natin, it takes two to tango. Wala pong vote buying kung walang vote selling. So 'wag po isipin ng iba na ang guilty lang po ay kandidato."

(To our fellow countrymen, it takes two to tango. There can't be vote buying without vote selling. So don't think that only the candidates are guilty.)

"May vote buying po, may vote selling. Kasama po ang mismong botante na nagbenta ng boto ang pwedeng mademanda at makasuhan namin,” he explained.

(There's vote buying, and there's also vote selling. People who sell their votes may also be charged.)

“Pero kung yung botante ay tumanggi na tumanggap mula sa kandidato, kahit na attempt lang ng kandidato is already vote buying by itself kahit na 'di tinanggap mismo ng botante yung binibigay ng kandidato."

(An attempt by candidates to offer something in exchange for votes is already vote buying by itself, even if the voter did not accept the offer.)

"Warning po ito sa lahat ng nanonood at nakakanuod sa atin (This is a warning to all watching). Mere attempt to give substantial amount in cash or in kind to our voters, even if refused by the voters, is already vote-buying,” Garcia added.

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