BSP to banks, firms: Stop digital vote buying, selling
MANILA, Philippines — With just over a month to go before the campaign period for the May 2022 elections, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has reminded companies under its supervision to strengthen measures against electronic or digital vote buying and selling.
The regulator issued its memorandum M-2021-074 to mitigate heightened risks of the possible use of electronic channels, like online banking and mobile wallets, in vote buying or selling.
According to the BSP, possible scenarios may include a concentration or a significant number of transaction account registrations in an area where vote buying or selling has been identified as rampant.
In this light, the BSP is working closely with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Philippine National Police.
Also, the BSP alerted banks to be vigilant of large cash transactions during the election period as well as unusual fund flows between accounts, and unusual volume and/or value of transactions in cash in or cash out channels.
Section 261 of Article 22 of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines lists vote buying and selling as prohibited acts and election offenses.
Vote buying happens when “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” to make anyone 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.
Vote selling, on the other hand, occurs when “any person, association, corporation, group or community who solicits or receives, directly or indirectly, any expenditure or promise of any office or employment, public or private, for any of the foregoing considerations.”
The law also lists conspiring to bribe voters or when two or more persons, whether candidates or not, come to an agreement concerning the commission of any violation of vote buying and selling and deciding to commit it, as an election offense.
Banks and other BSP-supervised financial institutions were advised to adjust their fraud management systems and transaction monitoring to foil the possible misuse of online financial channels.
In a New Year message to the public, Governor Benjamin Diokno said the BSP is pushing in 2022 not only for a domestic economy that is growing strongly, but one that is at its best yet in terms of technological advancement and financial inclusion.
Along these lines, the BSP has set a goal of seeing half of financial transactions in the economy being done through digital means by 2023. The idea is that the faster processing of payments speeds up capital turnaround and, therefore, income growth.
As of the end of 2020, one in every five financial transactions were made through digital payments. One form of such payments is by means of e-wallets. Arguably, the most popular e-wallets in the Philippines are the Ayala group’s GCash and the Manuel Pangilinan-led group’s PayMaya.
Diokno expects digital payments to have accounted for a greater share of total financial transactions in 2021.
This is so, especially considering the establishment of digital banks—there are now six companies that the BSP has licensed to operate as such—as well as the expanded use of QR codes, and the greater adoption of traditional banks of digital services.