Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman George Erwin Garcia said on Thursday, Oct. 26 that the poll body despises vote-buying as much as election-related violence when perpetrated against candidates, urging the public to cease involvement in these illegal activities.
Garcia made the statement after he was asked if influential people or local officials were behind the alleged vote-buying incident in Navotas City on Wednesday, Oct. 25, that involved 200 voters from Malabon City under the guise of watcher training.
“This is the right time to right what was wrong in the past. Kung dati nakakaligtas sila, hindi na po (If before they get away with it, not this time),” he added.
If ever a local official is discovered to be involved, Garcia said that they will face criminal charges and if they get convicted, will be subject to perpetual disqualification to hold public office.
The poll chief stated that the incident serves as a warning to local officials to be vigilant and find out if incidents of vote buying are being conducted in their city by individuals who are not from there.
He disclosed that police recovered over 1,200 envelopes each with P300 inside. Garcia stated that this was already under surveillance since Sunday and was not just discovered recently.
A report from the Navotas City Police revealed that the suspect was caught distributing envelopes with money worth a total of P363,900 to individuals during a “watchers’ training” activity in a warehouse on Policarpio St. in M. Naval, Barangay San Jose, Navotas City.
“We are still waiting for the formal report of the Election Officer (EO) to determine who will be formally charged,” Garcia said in a text message.
Garcia said that all 200 individuals had given their statements and disclosed names regarding the incident. As of press time, Comelec has not yet revealed the names of those involved who would face criminal and disqualification charges if ever they are found to be candidates.
Those who received may face charges as well for vote selling but Garcia stated that they can be exempted from prosecution if they will point out those involved behind it.
Once the investigative reports have been submitted to the Committee on Kontra Bigay, Garcia said that they will be revealing the names of those involved so that it can serve as a warning to all and that no one will do it again.
“Hindi naman po kinakailangang present ka dun eh, pero kung mapapatunayan at magcoconnect sa’yo bilang isang kandidato o kahit di ka kandidato maicoconnect sa’yo yung issue ng vote-buying pwede kang file-an ng kaso (You don’t have tobe present there, but if it get proven or gets linked to you as a candidate or even if you’re not and this issue of vote-buying gets connected to you, cases can be filed),” Garcia explained.
“Tatandaan po natin yung vote-buying pwedeng conspiracy to commit vote-buying. Ibig sabihin pwedeng ‘di lang yung mismong namimili kundi yung mismong nasa likod o nagprovide ng mismong pambili ng boto yan yung extent (Let’s remember that vote-buying can be ‘conspiracy to commit vote-buying’. That means it’s not just those who are buying the votes but even those who are behind it and funding the act, that’s the extent),” he added.
Garcia believes that there are other individuals behind the incident aside from the suspect who was caught since the money has to come from someone promoting the candidacy of somebody or that “somebody” is the candidate himself or herself or somebody else is supporting the candidate.
Meanwhile, Comelec also released a list of 241 candidates who are subject to the orders of suspension of proclamation.
Garcia has explained that even if a candidate wins and a suspension order has not been issued against them yet they have a pending case filed against them, they will still be under the jurisdiction of Comelec and the poll body can still remove them.
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