MANILA, Philippines–Take the money but junk the candidate.
Opposed by President Benigno Aquino III and blocked anew by the Supreme Court on the election “money ban,” Commission on Elections chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. on Friday appealed directly to voters to junk candidates offering money for their votes to teach them a lesson.
Brillantes said the Comelec would abide by the Supreme Court order stopping the implementation of the money ban but added that the election body would still argue before the tribunal that the ban did not violate bank secrecy laws and that it did not require the President’s concurrence.
“Take it (the money) but junk those who give you money. That’s the only way to do it so that the next time these people will not give away money because they will lose,” Brillantes said in an interview.
Brillantes, a veteran election lawyer before becoming Comelec chief, said vote-buying needed to be eradicated because candidates who buy votes are sure to recoup their money and even more through corruption once they get elected.
“Why would you give away money? Do you want to sacrifice all your life? If that’s the case, why don’t they just become priests and make donations again and again,” Brillantes said.
“This is the normal thing. I don’t want to accuse our politicians but this has been ongoing for so long. If we don’t come out with a very drastic measure and we will continue to be cynical about anything that we do, even innovative measures (like) the money ban, what will we do? We will just be stagnant?” he added.
Brillantes said drastic steps had to be taken, noting that not a single vote buyer had been prosecuted in the last 25 years while vote-buying has become “very, very rampant.”
“Maybe some were arrested but in more than 25 years, no one has been prosecuted. No one has been jailed,” he said.
Brillantes said vote-buying had become more rampant because candidates had fewer means to “manipulate” the vote after the automation of elections in 2010.
“So vote-buying increased in 2010 knowing that they cannot manipulate anymore the ballots we are now automated,” he said.
Brillantes said the Comelec might later ask Congress to pass a law that would allow the commission to impose a “money ban” during elections.
“We still don’t have that so maybe we could have (a law) later on with certain terms of conditions that Congress may find reasonable, acceptable, and feasible,” he said.
“With this kind of publicity on the money ban, when Congress convenes next time, we will remind them to come out with a law and put in all the terms and conditions,” he added.
The Comelec tried to impose a money ban, prohibiting cash withdrawals worth more than P100,000, but President Aquino, the central bank, bankers, and businessmen opposed it. Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued a status quo ante order stopping the ban’s implementation.
“I just consulted with the commissioners and we are not going to withdraw it but we have to follow the (high court) which means we are not going to implement it,” Brillantes said.
“Our position is we still believe that there should be a good (reason) to really control the circulation of money especially during this election period,” he added.
While bowing to the Supreme Court order, Brillantes said the Comelec would still ask the tribunal to rule on the legal and constitutional issues raised against the money ban.
“We will still file a comment because we want to impress on the Supreme Court that this was not an abrupt move on our part. We studied this,” Brillantes said.
“We also want to inform the Supreme Court about our position on whether the concurrence of the President is also necessary because our position that’s not needed. So, these are constitutional issues which could be raised even after elections,” he added.