MANILA — Citizens may arrest those suspected of vote buying and selling for the campaign period of the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE), the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Tuesday.
Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia said the constitution allows ordinary citizens and law enforcers to arrest criminal offenders who are caught in the act or flagrante delicto, even without a warrant.
While the Comelec is not encouraging a citizen's arrest given the intense rivalry during BSKE, Garcia said it is an option and will be included in guidelines for the anti-vote buying campaign that Comelec will launch this August.
“Kung kuwestiyunin sa Supreme Court, so be it,” Garcia said. “Hindi natin papayagan maging inutil ang Comelec dahil may patakaran na ganoon."
(If this is questioned before the Supreme Court, so be it.)
Garcia announced this during the signing of a memorandum of Agreement among the poll body, the Philippine National Police and Philippine Coast Guard where all agencies committed to do their best for a fair and peaceful elections on October 30.
PNP Chief Major General Benjamin Acorda, Jr. meanwhile said a citizen’s arrest would be helpful because the number of police personnel in certain areas is limited. But he expressed apprehension that this could result in conflict and violence.
Comelec Commissioner Ernesto Maceda, Jr., who is in charge of the anti-vote buying campaign, said they would work with the Anti-Money Laundering Council and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
One of the innovations would be monitoring vote buying via online applications like GCash. A red flag would be if someone sends a certain amount of money to a large number of recipients.
Garcia also said revisions to the 1985 Omnibus Election Code were needed because of changing times.