Comelec to rely on tech, socmed vs vote-buying

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star
Comelec to rely on tech, socmed vs vote-buying
At yesterday’s virtual press conference, Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said there could be evidence against vote-buying even if the money is sent via digital wallet.
Boy Santos, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) would be relying on technology and social media accounts to detect and help prosecute candidates engaged in vote-buying.

At yesterday’s virtual press conference, Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said there could be evidence against vote-buying even if the money is sent via digital wallet.

Also, since almost everyone has a mobile phone, anyone can take photos of these illegal transactions such as if there are raffles and prizes being given or if there are children who are part of the program.

“One good thing about technology is that it is very fast. If you will buy votes or engage in other illegal activities during elections, you will be afraid because someone could take a photo or record it. This is how you empower the citizenry, not only through writing but also via social media,” Garcia said.

“If there is vote-buying, it will not reflect the true sentiment of the people,” he added.

With evidence posted on social media accounts, Garcia said the poll body could easily take cognizance of complaints.

He assured the public that the Comelec is neither deaf nor blind
to realities that might emerge during the elections.

“Those who are able to present credible evidence on vote buying and other violations, they could easily write to us at the Comelec’s Law Department and we would immediately act on their complaint,” the poll official added.

The poll body can act on these incidents motu proprio.

Garcia also said that candidates may do their own monitoring of the activities of their rivals.

“It would be good if they would check the activities of the other candidates aspiring for the same position, check if they have committed violations and report to the Comelec,” he said.

The Comelec is launching tomorrow “Kontra Bigay,” an inter-agency task force against vote buying. To comprise the task force, apart from the Comelec, are the Department of Justice, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Information Agency.

Let voters decide

Garcia also said it is up to voters to decide if they prefer candidates who shun debates, as he voiced difficulty finding additional sanctions against aspiring presidents and vice presidents who refuse – for flimsy reasons – to engage their rivals in televised discourse organized by the poll body. Team Unity presidential candidate former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his running mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte have made it clear they’re not attending debates. Vice presidential bet Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza had skipped a debate for medical reasons.

Garcia said they have not yet thought of more sanctions against ignoring Comelec-sponsored debates. At present, candidates who skip debates are banned from participating in e-rallies on their social media platform. The poll body will hold its second presidential debate on April 3.

“We are mature citizens of this country. If you wish to see your candidate engage rivals in intellectual skills, then watch our debate. You will learn many things and you will get to know your candidate even more,” he said in Filipino.

During the debate, the Comelec would leave empty the podium assigned to the absent candidate.

The poll body’s Law Department and Education and Information Department have been tasked to work out possible sanctions for skipping debates.

The April 3 debate is the third of the five Comelec-organized debates called “PiliPinas Debates 2022: The Turning Point.” On proposals for one-on-one debate, Garcia said he finds it discriminatory.

The Comelec also released data yesterday showing that out of the 832 candidates running unopposed in the local elections, male candidates represent 77.52 percent and female candidates 22.48 percent.

There are a total of 18,023 elective posts being contested in the May 9 local elections.

Out of the 253 congressional candidates, 27 male candidates are running unopposed, compared to 12 female candidates running unopposed.

Of the 81 seats for provincial governor, there are seven male candidates and two female candidates running unopposed. While for the position of provincial vice governor, there are 81 seats of which seven males and four females are running unopposed.

For members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, of the 782 seats, there are 36 males and nine females running unopposed.

There are 154 males and 46 females running unopposed in the 1,634 seats for city/municipal mayor.

For city/municipal vice mayor, there are 208 males and 46 females running unopposed out of 1,634 seats.

In data released last March 24, the Comelec announced that there were 845 seats with candidates running unopposed. The Comelec has not given an explanation on the changes in the figures as of press time.

Meanwhile, election watchdog Kontra Daya yesterday urged Sen. Imee Marcos to resign as head of the Senate committee on electoral reforms amid her claim of a “serious security breach” in the operations of elections service provider Smartmatic.

“Two reasons: first is delicadeza and second is conflict of interest. Her role is very important because we don’t want any legislative inquiry pertaining to the elections to be having some bad taste in the mouth, in the eyes of the people,” professor Danilo Arao, Kontra Daya convenor, said in an interview with ANC.

“We believe that her being a sister of the presidential frontrunner would pose a clear conflict of interest. There is nothing wrong with organizing inquiry in aid of legislation. That’s part of check and balances. But someone else should take over,” he said.

As to Marcos being seen in some videos criticizing Vice President Leni Robredo, a rival of her brother, Arao said, “She may be doing it as a concerned citizen or as part of the Marcos clan. But either way, it also leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

“I think this is a reminder to the Marcos camp they should consult a dictionary as to what delicadeza means,” he added. – Rhodina Villanueva

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