‘Modern cancer of democracy’: Comelec wants more teeth to law vs vote buying
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is pushing to amend the law against vote buying, calling such an illegal act a “modern cancer of our democratic way of life.”
Comelec faced the Senate subcommittee on finance on Thursday for the resumption of the hearing on its proposed P5.2 billion budget for 2023, a few days after the poll body’s spending plan deliberations were suspended due to its failure to submit necessary documents.
Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel III asked if Comelec believes that vote buying destroys the electoral outcome and if it has plans to address the prevalence of this wrongful activity.
“It’s now the modern cancer of our democratic way of life. As far as the Comelec is concerned, we need legislation. We need to amend Section 261-A of the Omnibus Election Code on vote buying,” Comelec chairman George Garcia told senators.
The said section of the 1985 law deems vote buying and vote selling as electoral offenses.
“We need to redefine vote buying. We need to include the new forms of vote buying where you can send cash not necessarily face-to-face or physically. You can send cash using a cellphone or the modern way,” Garcia said.
He then sought the help of Congress in pushing for a “more severe penalty for vote buying.”
Garcia also vowed to coordinate closely with its task force Kontra Bigay, which receives reports and investigates incidents of vote buying or selling.
However, Pimentel recommended expanding the evidence that may be accepted in charges linked to vote buying.
“Cancer talaga siya eh. We should worry na mag-metastasize ito na kumalat na talaga. It’s now money determining the results of elections. […] Delikado tayo riyan. If it’s payamanan na bago ka mananalo ng eleksyon, eh ‘di wala na. Hindi na winning the hearts and minds of the people ito. This is pure capitalism. Unmitigated, unabated heartless capitalism,” the senator further lamented.
(It’s really a cancer, and we should worry that it may metastasize and spread. It’s now money determining the results of elections. […] That’s dangerous. If being richer scores you higher chances of winning the elections, then we’re doomed. It’s no longer about winning the hearts and minds of the people. This is pure capitalism. Unmitigated, unabated heartless capitalism.)
Senator Imee Marcos, who presided over the subpanel deliberations, echoed the call to broaden what type of evidence can be accepted for a vote buying charge
“Siguro iyan ang dapat gawin kasi napakahirap ng pruweba. At siguro i-compel natin iyong Philippine National Police, local government units, at iba pa para tumulong sa Comelec kasi hirap talaga ang Comelec diyan eh,” she suggested.
(Maybe that’s what we should do because it’s hard to prove it. And maybe compel the Philippine National Police, local government units, and others to help Comelec because Comelec is carrying this burden.)
Marcos later added: “Lagyan natin ng amyenda na talagang obligahin iyong iba na tumulong kasi minsan, umiiwas sila sa lokal, natatakot. Tapos ang Comelec ang tanging kontrabida at hindi naman pwedeng kumuha ng katibayan, so patulong na lang. This should be an all-of-government effort.”
(We should also add an amendment that obliges others to help because sometimes, they’re avoiding it on the local level out of fear. The Comelec will then look like the bad guys and they can’t just obtain evidence, so let’s ask for help. This should be an all-of-government effort.)
The Comelec previously said it was investigating nearly 1,000 vote buying complaints reported during the May 2022 elections.
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