Palace: Vote-buying accusations vs Bong Go difficult to prove
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Tuesday said accusations of vote-buying against former Special Assistant to the President and now senatorial candidate Christopher “Bong” Go would be difficult to prove under the present law.
“I looked at the provision. Baka mahirapan eh kasi (it may be difficult to prove because) what it says there is that will induce the voter to be influenced by what you gave. Eh mukhang iba ‘yung situation dito kay (It looks like the situation is different) Bong Go sapagkat (because) these are donations and they are fire victims,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
“Pangalawa (Second), I read also that it was not even him who gave the so-called donation, cash donation. Mahirapan sila dun (It will be difficult),” he added.
Panelo was reacting to the appeal of election watchdogs National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) and Kontra Daya to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to look into reports that the administration-backed senatorial candidate distributed cash assistance to fire victims during the campaign period.
The poll watchdogs made the call after Go reportedly visited the fire-stricken Barangay South Cembo in Makati City on March 5 to give a speech while his staff distributed P2,000 each to the affected families.
Go also reportedly visited fire victims in Santa Ana, Manila on Feb. 18 and promised cash assistance.
Under the law, vote-buying is defined as the act of giving, offering or promising money or anything of value, directly or indirectly, to any person, association, corporation, entity or community to induce anyone to vote for or against any candidate.
Panelo, who is also Duterte’s chief legal counsel, insisted that the “intention” of the vote-buyer should be to “induce” for the act to be considered illegal.
“The problem is, how will you prove inducement, especially in this particular case of Bong Go where they are fire victims. It would be different if you just give, wala namang kadahi dahilan (without a reason). And then sasabihin mo, kandidato ako ganito, eh you are already violating (And you say ‘I am a candidate,’ you are already violating [the law]),” he said.
Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez, however, said that explicit solicitation of votes during cash assistance is not required for it to be considered vote-buying.
However, the Palace official claimed that it is the Comelec, not its spokesperson who is just airing his opinion, that will decide on the complaint.
‘Yun lang ‘yung opinion nung spokesman, eh hindi naman siya ang magdedecide dun, it’s the commission (That is only the opinion of the spokesman, but he will not decide on that. It’s the commission),” Panelo said.
‘Not surprised’ at survey ranking
In the latest Pulse Asia survey, Go, who is running under the ruling PDP-Laban party, rose to 3rd place in among senatorial aspirants chosen by the respondents.
Go is only lagging behind reelectionist Senators Grace Poe and Cynthia Villar, and is currently tied with another incumbent senator, Sonny Angara.
Panelo said Go’s rise in the ranking does not come as a surprise as the latter has been very visible to the public.
“Well, given the fact that he’s very visible, I’m not surprised why he’s within the top 3. He’s very visible,” Panelo said.
“As we know in this election and for that matter (in) previous elections, awareness is number 1 consideration. You may be very good, but if the people are not aware of your name or goodness, wala rin (it’s no use),” he added. /ee
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