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Vote buying an election offense, Comelec spox reminds public

Philstar.com
Vote buying an election offense, Comelec spox reminds public
File photo shows people holding cash.
Boy Santos, file

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 11:39 a.m.) — Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez reiterated Wednesday that vote buying is an election offense after Vice President Leni Robredo suggested that people take politicians’ money but still vote for whoever they want.

“I disagree with the notion of taking the money and voting according to your conscience,” Jimenez said in a tweet. “Vote buying is an election offense regardless of financial situation or noble intentions.”

Vote buying and vote selling are punishable with imprisonment lasting from one year to six years, according to the Omnibus Election Code.

Robredo said Tuesday in a forum with household service workers or kasambahays that while vote buying is wrong and should be punished, people can accept the money being offered to them but still vote according to what their conscience dictates.

"Mali yung pagbibili ng boto, pero ‘yung sinasabi ko sa tao, tanggapin niyo. Parati kong sinasabi tanggapin niyo kasi galing rin naman ‘yan sa atin. ‘Yung pinambibili ng boto, pera din naman ‘yan ng taongbayan," she said.

(Vote buying is wrong, but I tell people, accept the money. I always say accept it since that also came from us. What’s being used to buy votes is also the money of the people.)

She admitted, however, that it is difficult to catch vote buyers.

She also told kasambahays that they should not worry about the possibility of other people finding out who they voted for as there is no way for anyone to do this.

The Comelec has stressed that the claim that there is a way to monitor how a specific voter votes is among the persistent pieces of misinformation surrounding polls.

Loose enforcement

At a press conference with local media in her bailiwick of Bicol on Wednesday, Robredo reiterated that vote buying is wrong and lamented the supposedly loose enforcement against the practice.

"Hindi natin kino-condone yung vote buying. In fact, isa tayo sa matagal nang nakikipaglaban laban sa vote buying. Pero hinihingi natin sa ating awtoridad na sana yung enforcement nito maging maayos," she said.

(We're not condoning vote buying. In fact, I'm among those who have long been fighting against vote buying. But what we're asking authorities is for better enforcement.)

She recalled how in 2013, she filed a vote buying complaint against her political opponent at the time, but this was junked even as she claimed to have a lot of evidence.

"Dahil hindi maayos 'yung enforcement, marami 'yung nakaka-get away with it. 'Yung sinasabi natin, 'yung nakaka-get away with it, 'wag sanang ispin nung mga nakatanggap na mayroon siyang obligasyon na iboto kung sinuman ang namigay," Robredo said.

(Because enforcement is not stringent, a lot get away with it. What we're saying is that for those who get away with it, those who receive money hopefully don't think that they have an obligation to vote whoever handed them money.)

Similar suggestions

Robredo’s suggestion is similar to the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin’s advice on vote buying to “take the bait, not the hook.”

Some of her fellow presidential aspirants in the 2022 elections have previously made similar statements on vote buying.

“Ang sinasabi ko, sige kunin ninyo ang pera, inyo naman talaga ‘yan, tapos gawin ninyo ‘yung gusto ninyo," former Sen. Bongbong Marcos said in a radio interview in May 2016.

(What I’m saying is sure, get the money, that’s truly yours, then do what you want to do.)

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso also issued a similar statement in 2013 when he was running in the vice-mayoralty race in the capital city alongside former President Joseph Estrada.

“Tanggapin po ninyo ang pera o suhol ng isa pagkatapos ang ilagay Estrada, Isko sa balota,” Domagoso said then.

(Accept the money or bribe of the other and then write on the ballot, Estrada, Isko.)

Vote buying has been a perennial problem in Philippine elections which seems to have no solution in sight.

The Comelec brought forward a potential solution to vote buying in 2013, when it tried to ban the withdrawal of more than P100,000 a day, the transportation of cash beyond P500,000 and the encashment of checks exceeding P500,000.

But this was eventually halted by the Supreme Court and the poll body has not attempted to revive the proposal. — Xave Gregorio

2022 ELECTIONS BONGBONG MARCOS COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS ISKO MORENO DOMAGOSO JAMES JIMENEZ LENI ROBREDO VOTE BUYING
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