What’s wrong with giving a cab driver a fat tip during an election campaign?
Plenty, in the view of Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes who said popular television host Kris Aquino could be liable for vote-buying.
“It looks like you’re campaigning, you’re making an appeal and then you give a prize,” commented Brillantes.
“Anyone could ride a taxi, go campaigning and then give out cash,” he said.
The Comelec chief was actually reacting to media reports of a story that Aquino gave reporters, about how when she was campaigning in Cebu City last week, she let the taxi driver keep the change from the P1,000 bill she handed him after he agreed to vote for three senatorial candidates she was endorsing—Sen. Francis Escudero, Grace Poe Llamanzares and her cousin, Bam Aquino.
Palace defends Kris
Not surprisingly, Malacañang on Wednesday said it disagreed with the Comelec chief and defended President Aquino’s celebrity sister.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said it was apparent that Aquino “decided to let the taxi driver keep the change after he made it known to her that he was voting for the three candidates.”
The taxi driver “needed no persuasion nor was the money given in exchange for his vote as defined by the law,” she said.
“We respect Chairman Brilliantes’ opinion but disagree with it,” she said.
Brillantes said, however, that it would not be easy to charge Aquino. For one thing, there would have to be a complainant, he said.
“It’s not that easy. Who will be the complainant? She can always deny it. I don’t know if she would admit that under oath. I will not make any conclusion,” he said.
Vote-buying is an election offense and violators could face up to six years of imprisonment, the loss of the right to vote, and disqualification from holding public office.
Brillantes said Aquino’s narration of what happened showed that she gave the driver money “in good faith.”
“As far as she is concerned, she does not find anything wrong with it. It was like she was happy because she campaigned (for her candidates) and the driver said, ‘okay,’” he said.
‘In good faith’
“I think it was done in good faith. I’m making statements here… I might be jailed,” he added in jest.
Aquino, who has disclosed that she intends to run for governor of Tarlac in 2016, took time out from her busy schedule to pitch for Escudero, Llamanzares and her cousin in a two-day swing through General Santos, Davao, Cebu and Tacloban cities last week.
Talking with reporters while campaigning in Cebu City, Aquino said she took a taxi from the airport to her hotel and gave the driver a fat tip after the latter agreed to vote for her three candidates.
“I reminded him that apart from Chiz, and Grace, don’t forget Bam Aquino. When he said yes, I doubled my payment. I gave him P1,000 and told him keep the change,” she said.