MANILA - Vote buying has been an "integral part" of elections in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday after casting his vote in his hometown Davao City.
Duterte, a long-time mayor who won by a landslide in 2016, his first shot at a national position, said all candidates engage in the illegal practice of buying votes.
"The practice of buying votes has been an integral part of an election in the Philippines," he told reporters in an ambush interview.
"'Yang pagboto, lahat ‘yan. Walang hindi nagbibili ng boto dito maniwala ka. ‘Yang… Walang hindi nagbibili ng boto. Sinong --- ituro mo kung sino ang hindi nagbili ng boto," he said.
(There is no politician who doesn't buy votes. Tell me who doesn't buy votes.)
Duterte explained that giving money to voters doesn't always translate to the illegal practice of vote buying.
"You know when you start to give money… Sabi ko nga sa Comelec (Commission on Elections), it is not because I’m buying the vote of the fellow, it’s because I’m giving him money to go to the presinto, cast his vote, and go home. Hindi naman lahat ng tao may pera (Not all people have money)," he said.
Vote buying, commonly committed by poll candidates and their supporters, is listed as an election offense under the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines.
The crime is punishable by imprisonment of not less than 1 year but not more than 6 years.
Persons found guilty of the crime will also be barred from holding public office and be deprived of their right to vote.
The President, however, noted that persons accused of election offenses should be prosecuted.
"If they are caught, they should be prosecuted to the full length of the law," he said.
Several reports of vote buying reached authorities on the runup to Monday's polls.
On Sunday night, Quezon City mayoral candidate Vincent “Bingbong” Crisologo was arrested for alleged obstruction of justice in relation to his group's alleged involvement in vote buying.