Free cell phones in campaign rally
Comelec says giveaways questionableBy Nathaniel R. Melican |Philippine Daily Inquirer
Martell Soledad, a candidate for councilor in Valenzuela City, has added cell phones to the array of giveaways—T-shirts, baseball caps and trinkets—during election campaign rallies.
Six lucky people who attended the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA)-Tayo Na Valenzuela proclamation rally in Valenzuela on Sunday night each went home with a cell phone given away by Soledad.
Soledad was one of the last candidates for councilor to be called on stage during the rally attended by UNA senatorial candidates.
The crowd went wild after he announced his “giveaway.”
“In our place in District 2, people have become used to the fact that with Martell Soledad, scrooges, stingy and selfish people are not allowed,” he began.
“Our senators have been throwing away gifts. But, a friend visited me, and he said he would want to throw some cell phones,” Soledad said, eliciting loud cheers from the crowd.
Soledad’s staff began throwing away the six cell phones in white boxes to the crowd.
“This friend of mine, he’s from Bulacan, and he’s very kind, so he decided to donate to us those six cell phones,” he explained later. He did not say the brand or model of the cell phone.
The crowd, especially the six who caught the phones, enjoyed the treat, but is it legal, or can it be considered vote-buying?
The Omnibus Election Code defines vote-buying as “any person who gives, offers or promises money or anything of value, gives or promises any office or employment, franchise or grant, public or private, or makes or offers to make an expenditure, directly or indirectly, or cause an expenditure to be made to any person, association, corporation, entity, or community in order to induce anyone or the public in general to vote for or against any candidate or withhold his vote in the election, or to vote for or against any aspirant for the nomination or choice of a candidate in a convention or similar selection process of a political party.”
Disqualification from office and possible removal of voting rights could await candidates found guilty of vote buying.
Asked about the cell phone giveaway, James Jimenez, spokesman of the Commission on Elections, said on his Twitter account, “That’s very questionable.”
Pork barrel for all
Soledad is a cousin of Councilor Shalani Soledad-Romulo, who is running as representative in the second district of Valenzuela.
Romulo, who will run against incumbent Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo, vowed to use the P210 million, representing the total pork barrel congressmen receive in a three-year term, for all of her constituents, and not just a selected few.
“That’s P210 million which should be seen and felt by all of us in District 2. That means assistance without biases. You should not be asked if you were with us in the election, or if you know us. If you approach us, we should help, because that fund is for all of us in the district,” she said.
Romulo, whose husband, Roman, is running for his final term as congressman for the lone district of Pasig City, vowed to provide scholarships, livelihood training, business assistance and medical support for her constituents should she win.—With a report from Jocelyn R. Uy