By Mikha Flores, VERA Files
Three weeks to go to the May 13 polls, the Commission on Elections is starting to receive reports of vote-buying by candidates.
Elections Commissioner Grace Padaca said Monday she has received reports that rice and grocery items were being doled out by politicians in her hometown in Isabela but she declined to name the candidates.
Padaca also cited instances where voters were given transportation money to Visayas in exchange for votes.
“Parang hindi na lang nangyayari ang bilihan ng boto the night before the election, (It seems vote-buying no longer happens on the eve of the elections),” Padaca said.
Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the early forms of vote-buying do not involve cash but “more of other forms of vote-buying”.
“Ang sa akin, ang sa experience ko diyan, very risky magbigay ng pera this early. Meron nang namimigay pero malamang hindi iboboto iyon dahil may darating pa the day before na mas malaki, (Based on my experience, it’s very risky to give out money this early. There are some who are already giving money but they would likely not get voted because a bigger amount would be given on the eve of the elections),” Brillantes, who was an election lawyer before he was appointed to Comelec, said.
Vote-buying is prohibited under the Omnibus Election Code and carries a penalty of up to six years in prison. Giving anything of value or withholding a voter’s right to vote in exchange for cash are considered forms of vote-buying.
“Tanggapin ninyo lahat ng binibigay…pero huwag niyong iboto iyong nagbigay. Siguro yan ang magandang rule (Accept anything that is given to you but don’t vote for the one who gave the money. Maybe that should be the rule),” Brillantes said.
Brillantes said giving election materials like umbrellas or other small items is allowed but the poll body will have meet en banc to set a ceiling on the price of giveaways that is allowable.
He added that they will try something new this election to curb-vote buying but declined to give specifics. “It will involve a very sensitive area of vote-buying. Something new but let’s see whether we can implement it,” Brillantes said.
He also instructed Comelec’s regional directors to start monitoring instances of vote-buying in their respective areas.
(VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for true.)