MANILA -- The components of a newly-formed interagency task force, led by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), on Wednesday assured the persons who will file vote-buying cases that they would get support in pursuing such suits.
During the launch of Comelec Task Force Kontra Bigay, Comelec director and head of the task force John Rex Laudiangco noted they are ready to help the people in filing cases.
The message we are sending is clear: to the complainants and witnesses, you are not alone. We are here. If there is a need a case build up and investigation, don't hesitate to ask for help. The PNP [Philippine National Police], NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] and Comelec are here to help you. We will be here to investigate and prosecute, he said.
We are here to guide them. Case build up will be provided by the NBI and PNP and the DOJ [Department of Justice] will help us in the prosecution of offenses and also the IBP [Integrated Bar of the Philippines]. In fact, in drafting of their verified complaints and affidavits which are required by law to initiate this process, there are many who will help, Laudiangco added.
Laudiangco said the public can watch for the following signs of vote-buying: one who gives or promises money or anything of value; somebody who gives, promises employment, franchise or grant or anything that will induce people to vote for or withhold his vote for a candidate.
All of these acts were done to induce anyone or the public in general to vote for or against a particular candidate. Or even withhold his vote sa elections, he said.
He said for the May 2019 polls, several vote-buying cases have been docketed and scheduled for preliminary investigation.
Meanwhile, Comelec chairman Sheriff Abas noted that the task force will also go after those who will convince people not to vote.
Well included in that the definition of vote-buying is the negative campaign or those who bribe a person not to vote," he said.
The Omnibus Election Code prohibits vote-buying wherein an individual gives, offers, or promises money or anything of value to induce the public to vote for or against any candidate.
The act is considered an election offense, which carries the penalty of one to six years imprisonment, removal of right to vote, and disqualification to hold public office.
Comelec Commissioner Al ParreAo noted that the task force was created to take action on the number of complaints they received.
We have monitored a lot of vote-buying reports. Some people have written us. Some call our offices. We also received a lot of reports from the PNP and other agencies that's why we try to address these cases," he said, noting that there has been a surge of vote-buying complaints in the past weeks.
ParreAo reminded those who would file such cases that they need not pay anything as the legal assistance is free of charge.
On the other hand, another member of the task force, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), supported the creation of the group as it will help curtail vote-buying.
It is actually an anti-vote buying task force which was created by the Comelec and we are here to express our full support together with our attach agency the PNP, DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said.
Vote-buying has become such a big problem that we need to...curtail it and we in the DILG will do whatever is necessary for us to be able to support the Comelec in curtailing this act, the DILG official added.
Source: Philippines News Agency