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Take money and run, says Brillantes

Take the money and junk the candidate.

Rebuked yet again by the Supreme Court and opposed by President Benigno Aquino III on the election “money ban,” Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. on Friday turned to the voters directly, issuing an appeal that they junk the candidates offering them money for their votes.

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“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,” he said.

Brillantes said the Comelec would abide by the Supreme Court order stopping the implementation of the money ban.

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“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,” he said.

Constitutional issues

But the poll body 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.

He said the Comelec 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.

“These are constitutional issues, which could be raised even after the elections,” he said.

Eradicating vote-buying

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“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,” Brillantes said.

Brillantes, a veteran election lawyer, said vote-buying needed to be eradicated because candidates who buy votes are sure to want to recoup their money and even more through corruption once 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,” he 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 said.

‘Very, very rampant’

Brillantes said drastic steps had to be taken, noting that not a single vote buyer has been prosecuted in the past 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 the ballots anymore,” he said.

Congress could pass law

Brillantes said the Comelec may ask Congress to pass a law that would allow the poll body to impose a “money ban” during elections, “with certain terms of conditions that Congress may find reasonable, acceptable and feasible”.

“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 said.

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TAGS: 2013 elections, Comelec, Commission on Elections, Sixto Brillantes Jr.
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