Ayuda or vote-buying? Comelec can use 'totality' rule

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 25 2022 10:23 AM

Another day, another video of money changing hands during a campaign rally ahead of the May elections. 

On Thursday attendees of a campaign rally in Laguna were caught on video receiving envelopes containing cash, which the governor said are regular allowances. The rally was for vice presidential candidate Sara Duterte, running-mate of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. who was absent in the event.

Last March 15, videos circulated on social media of people receiving envelopes with P500 cash after attending a campaign rally of Bongbong Marcos in Nueva Ecija. 

Nueva Ecija Governor Aurelio Umali said the envelopes of cash were "ayuda" and that the distribution was already scheduled on that day. 

Under the Omnibus Election Code, giving, offering, or promising "money or anything of value... in order to induce anyone or the public in general to vote for or against any candidate or withhold his vote in the election" is prohibited. 

The Commission on Elections earlier said giving money as a form of 'ayuda' (assistance) or the raffles by candidates is prohibited once the campaign period for the polls starts. 

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Speaking to ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said giving ayuda during the campaign period does not automatically mean that it is vote-buying especially if the poll body issues a certificate of exemption to give out ayuda or relief goods to the official.

"However, if it is not related to the regular service of local government then we can investigate because it is illegal without permission of Comelec," he said in Filipino. 

Garcia said Comelec can also use the "totality rule" in determining if the giving away of cash during the campaign is vote-buying. He cited as an example if a poor person is always asking for alms and is always given money, then there is a question if the candidate giving the money is committing vote-buying. 

"Kung yung isang kandidato naman ay basta na lamang namigay nang kahit na sino at pagkatapos ay meron pang bulong 'Ako ay iboto ninyo' o kaya yung kanyang ipinamimigay ay meron mismong mukha niya o pangalan niya o numero niya, eh ibang usapan na po iyon,"he said. 

The poll commissioner said that while Comelec can motu proprio investigate alleged vote-buying incidents, the poll body can also act if a formal complaint is filed especially if the person was there during the distribution of the money. 

He added Comelec can decide on a disqualification case even after the elections. 

"If someone files a disqualification case for violating the Omnibus Election Code...if the Comelec decides we can remove that person even if the person is already seated," he said.