Gift giving or vote buying? Comelec to issue guidelines

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Giveaway pens and fans are OK. Lechon (roast pig) and pancit  (noodles)? These may be going too far.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday warned candidates that giving away food such as lechon to voters on the eve of election day could constitute vote-buying.

“Why are you going to give away lechon or pancit?” Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes asked.

He said the Comelec would come out with new rules to minimize vote-buying in the May 13 polls.

“Vote buying is any giving of money or anything of value for purposes of getting a vote. It is really done a few days before the elections, usually on the eve or two days before.”          

But Brillantes said distributing small giveaways is not considered vote-buying under Republic Act 9006 or the Fair Elections Act.

The law repealed Section 85 of the Omnibus Election Code which considered as “unlawful propaganda to purchase, manufacture, request, distribute or accept electoral propaganda gadgets, such as pens, lighters, fans of whatever nature, flashlights, athletic goods or materials, wallets, shirts, hats, bandanas, matches, cigarettes and the like.”

The Code stipulated that “campaign supporters accompanying a candidate shall be allowed to wear hats and/or shirts or t-shirts advertising a candidate.”

“Before it was not allowed to give light, umbrellas, t-shirts... Now that’s allowed as long as these are freely given as campaign materials,” Brillantes said.

He, however, cautioned that these expenses must be within the allowable campaign spending of candidates and reported in their Statement of Contributions and Expenditures, which they are allowed to submit to Comelec within 30 days after election day.

The poll chief said if campaign materials are given close to election day, it might still be considered as vote-buying, although difficult to prove. 

“It’s a matter of evidence, that’s why we are urging the people to present their evidence to us if they know of such,” Brillantes said.

Strict poster rules

Meanwhile, the Comelec chief berated the party-list group Ang Kabataan for complaining over the strict implementation of campaign poster rules.    

In his Twitter account, Brillantes said the group should just remove its unlawful propaganda materials posted on major thoroughfares in the metropolis and comply with the rules.

He made the statement in reaction to the claim of Kabataan that the Comelec needs to review its rules in common posting areas because “such strict limitations are disadvantageous to grassroots party-lists such as Kabataan which do not have large campaign funds, unlike traditional politicians.”

“The intention of the resolution may be good, but it further marginalizes parties and candidates that don’t have large campaign funds. This section basically contradicts the value of fairness that the Fair Elections Act aims to achieve,” said Kabataan president Terry Ridon.

Ridon had asked the Comelec “not to go after small fish while turning a blind eye (on) violations made by those with big names and those close to the President.”

“Their effort to regulate campaigning will be useless if it exempts allies of the President and big families from the rules.”

Last Wednesday, a team of Comelec personnel, led by Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, combed major roads in Manila and found campaign posters pasted outside designated areas.

A majority of the materials, including huge streamers hanging inside the Polytechnic University of the Philippines campus in Sta. Mesa, Manila, are from Kabataan.

Under Comelec Resolution 9615, posting campaign materials on electric posts, plant boxes, trees, public utility and government vehicles and schools, among others, is prohibited. 



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