AMLC reports 'large amount of money withdrawn' in Ilocos Sur, says Comelec's Garcia | Inquirer News

AMLC reports ‘large amount of money withdrawn’ in Ilocos Sur, says Comelec’s Garcia

/ 02:03 PM May 31, 2022
Comelec Commissioner George Garcia bared that a "large amount of money" was withdrawn in Ilocos Sur, citing a vote buying report from AMLC.

Commissioner George Garcia in a media briefing on April 27, 2022, on the first day of Local Absentee Voting held at the Comelec Session Hall, 8th floor, Palacio del Gobernador, Intramuros.
(File photo by LYN RILLON / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner George Garcia on Tuesday bared that a “large amount of money” was withdrawn in Ilocos Sur, citing a vote buying report from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

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Garcia made the disclosure during Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate electoral reforms committee as he reported the number of vote buying-related complaints received by the poll body.

The Senate panel was assessing the recently concluded 2022 polls.

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According to Garcia, Comelec’s “Kontra Bigay” task force received 940 Facebook messages from individuals complaining of vote buying.

The task force also received 171 emails while the Comelec’s law department received 105 reports, Garcia said.

The Comelec law department has so far docketed 12 verified complaints.

“That’s very much the tiny tip of the giant iceberg,” committee chairperson Senator Imee Marcos interjected.

Garcia then went on to cite a report from AMLC.

“There was one report from the Anti-Money Laundering Council on the large amount of money withdrawn. It’s in Ilocos Sur,” the Comelec commissioner said, eliciting laughter in the room where the hearing is conducted.

“Di ako yun a. Kapitbahay ko yun [That’s not me. That’s my neighbor],” Marcos, in response, said in jest.

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Marcos previously served as governor of Ilocos Norte, the neighboring province of Ilocos Sur.

‘Stiffer penalties’ vs vote buying

Garcia proposed including a provision under the country’s anti-money laundering law to prevent “massive” withdrawal of cash at least 10 days before the elections in a bid to prevent vote buying.

“There was one instance in the past when the chairman was Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, there was a resolution prohibiting the withdrawal of P500,000 or more in all banks in the country. It was questioned before the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court was not able to resolve the case. So there was no withdrawal, businessmen were complaining, in order to prevent vote buying—although in that particular year, vote buying was still persistent,” Garcia recalled.

“But we can likewise include perhaps or study in the anti money laundering law…preventing massive withdrawal or even prevention or suspension of any withdrawal from banks during the period or at least 10 days before the election,” he added.

Comelec Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan, likewise, proposed “stiffer penalties” against those found guilty of vote buying.

“We would like to propose stiffer penalties for vote buying because this has been well-entrenched in every locality in the country and we should also work hard for the prosecution and possible conviction of these vote buyers,” Pangarungan told the committee.

Marcos agreed, saying all those involved should be penalized.

“Dapat pakyaw, kasama lahat yung nagbayad, yung tumanggap, yung natutulog sa pansitan na mga opisyal. Lahat dapat kasali. Damay damay,” she said.

(All should be covered, from those who paid, those who received payments and officials who are merely sleeping on the job. All of them should be covered by these penalties.)

RELATED STORY: 

Comelec: Nearly 1,000 vote buying cases under investigation

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TAGS: 2022 polls, Comelec, George Garcia, Nation, News, Saidamen Pangarungan, Senate, Senator Imee Marcos, vote-buying
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