Comelec reiterates support to amending election code to combat vote buying 

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COMELEC Commissioner George Erwin M. Garcia in press briefing on Oct. 13. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ EDD GUMBAN

THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday reiterated its support to amending the country’s election law to combat pervasive vote buying, including recent schemes using digital financial platforms.    

Comelec Chairman George Erwin M. Garcia said the Omnibus Election Code, particularly provisions on vote buying and selling, needs to be updated in terms of definition, penalties, and in accordance with technological advancements.   

“We need to include the new forms of vote buying, especially those where you can send cash, not necessarily face to face or physically,” he said during Thursday’s Senate hearing on the Comelec budget. 

The Comelec issued a statement last month expressing support to a House bill that seeks to declare vote buying as a heinous crime, and recommended the inclusion of digital payments in the proposed amendment.   

Mr. Garcia fully agreed with Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Martin “Koko” D. Pimentel when the latter noted at the hearing that the May 2022 national and local election was “marred by widespread, alarming vote buying.” 

“It’s now the modern cancer of our democratic way of life. As far as the Commission on Elections is concerned, we need legislation,” Mr. Garcia said.  

Under the election code, vote buying is defined as “any person who gives, offers or promises money or anything of value… to any person, association, corporation, entity, or community in order to induce anyone or the public in general to vote for or against any candidate.”  

Vote selling, on the other hand, covers “any person, association, corporation, group or community who solicits or receives, directly or indirectly, any expenditure or promise of any office or employment, public or private, for any of the foregoing considerations.”  

Current penalties include imprisonment for one to six years, disqualification from public office, and forfeiture of one’s right to vote. Any political party found guilty would also have to pay a fine of not less than P10,000.  

The Comelec chief also said legislative changes are needed to ease the prosecution of vote buying and selling cases. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan