The Provincial Board (PB) has called for an amendment to the current election law that will enable the poll body to directly act on cases of vote buying, instead of waiting for formal complaints to be lodged with them.
Outgoing board member Roseller Pineda, author of the resolution on the matter, claimed it is not enough that the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) deputizes only the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other agencies to address the problem.
“Tanggap ng lipunan ang vote-buying. Ang COMELEC, they are only deputizing the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), PNP (Philippine National Police), PPCRV (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting) or concern citizen. Hindi sila nakaka-prevail sa practices na ganito, hindi kaya. Bakit hindi pwedeng mismong COMELEC ang palakasin ang police power para ma-curtail ang vote buying,” Pineda said.
Pineda, an outgoing board member, explained that he was encouraged to propose the measure because of the “widespread practice” of vote-buying by candidates.
“Being a last-termer, nag-iisip tayo ng puwedeng contribution kasi marami pang darating na election,” he said.
He observed that vote-buying, while illegal, is an “accepted practice” in communities.
Jomel Ordas, the spokesperson of the COMELEC in the province, earlier clarified that the poll body only acts on vote-buying reports when there is a formal complaint filed by a concerned party.
“Dapat may formal complaint, kasi kung wala naman nagrereklamo sa COMELEC ay walang mangyayari. Kahit sino kasi liable dito. Hindi lang kandidato o supporter ng kandidato kundi maging sino mang tao ay maaring maging liable dito once bumili o nagbenta [sila] ng boto,” he said.
Vote buying and selling are considered an offense under Section 261 of Republic Act 881 or the “Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines”, which has a corresponding penalty, including imprisonment of one to six years and perpetual disqualification to hold public office.
Ordas pointed out that all politicians are allowed to spend money on their campaign staff, but not for the voters, which can be considered as vote buying and selling.
Recently, former Puerto Princesa City mayor Edward Hagedorn filed a complaint about alleged vote-buying against incumbent mayor Lucilo Bayron and his group, including Representative-elect Gil Acosta Jr.