The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has created a formal committee tasked to coordinate with law enforcement agencies to address vote-buying and vote-selling in the country, Comelec spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco said Wednesday.
“Dati po nadinig niyo na ‘yung Task force Kontra Bigay. Nasimulan po ‘yan nung 2019, itinuloy nung 2022. Ito po ay isang ad hoc task force. Ngayon po isang formal committee—Committee on Kontra Bigay na po siya,” Laudiangco said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.
“So magkakaroon ng dedicated na tao na tututok dito. Mas magiging maayos po ‘yung coordination sa ating law enforcement agencies. So meron na pong specific na opisina ang Comelec na tututok lamang sa vote-buying,” he added.
(We launched Task Force Kontra Bigay in 2019 and we also formed it for the 2022 elections. This is only an ad hoc task force. Right now, it is already a formal committee. It will be called the Committee on Kontra Bigay. So there will be a dedicated Comelec office which will focus on addressing vote-buying.)
The commissioner-in-charge for the Committee on Kontra Bigay is Commissioner Ernesto Maceda Jr.
While they created a committee against vote-buying, Laudiangco appealed to Congress to revisit the definition of vote-buying and vote-selling.
Citing his experience in the Comelec Law Department, Laudiangco said the poll body is having a hard time in linking the evidence of vote-buying to the candidates.
Thus, Laudiangco said the definition of this vote-buying should be expanded, and it should also include other modern ways to transact with the voters such as bank transfers and online wallets.
In the 2022 national and local elections, the Comelec launched Task Force Kontra Bigay to prevent vote-buying during the campaign season.
The task force, headed by Commissioner Aimee Ferolino, was composed of several government agencies including the Department of Justice, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Philippine Information Agency.
It aims to act motu proprio as well as on formal complaints involving vote-buying.
Vote-buying and vote-selling are considered as an election offense under Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code.
Any person found guilty of election offense shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years.
Also, those found guilty will be denied the right to vote and prohibited from holding public office, and any political party found guilty of vote-buying will be fined. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News