Comelec official: Vote buying an election offense regardless of noble intentions

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 27) — Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez spoke against politicians encouraging the public to accept money from candidates, but he gets questioned by netizens over the Comelec’s supposed inaction.

“I disagree with the notion of taking the money and voting according to your conscience. Vote buying is an election offense regardless of financial situation or noble intentions,” Jimenez said in a tweet on Wednesday.

His remarks came after presidential aspirant Vice President Leni Robredo told a forum on Tuesday that voters may take the money offered by candidates, but they should vote according to their conscience.

Many netizens replied to his tweet. They questioned the Comelec’s efforts in ending vote buying and going after vote buyers.

“If you want the elections to be taken seriously, then take a course of actions to put a stop to it. It usually happens at the poorest areas of the country where people are easily persuaded by money to vote,” a netizen commented.

Asked to clarify her stance on vote buying, Robredo on Wednesday reiterated the practice is wrong and the problem lies with the implementation of regulations against it.

Robredo, a lawyer herself, also recalled her experience filing cases against those engaging in vote buying only to see the cases dismissed.

Other personalities eyeing the country’s top post also weighed in on vote-buying later in the day. While they noted the act itself is indeed prohibited by law, some of them also acknowledged voters in need are forced to accept the money.

Mangyayari ang direct at indirect vote buying habang gutom ang masa at walang mapagpiliang kandidato kundi mga bilyonaryo o mula sa political dynasty,” tweeted labor leader Leody de Guzman, who also called for the reformation of the country’s political and electoral systems against vote buying and patronage politics.

[Translation: Direct and indirect vote buying will keep happening as long as the masses are hungry and unable to choose candidates other than billionaires or those hailing from political dynasties.]

Meanwhile, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and Senator Manny Pacquiao counted on the Filipino voters’ ability to discern the kinds of politicians despite such belittling efforts from those in power.

Hindi mo masisi ang tao tumanggap ng pera sa hirap ng buhay ngunit matalino ang Pilipino,” commented Moreno. “Alam nila kung sino ang tunay na lider na may malasakit sa kanila at kung sino ang FAKE.”

[Translation: You cannot blame someone who accepts money amid life’s hardships, but Filipinos are smart. They can discern real leaders that have compassion and those who are fake.]

Senator Ping Lacson, however, reminded that those who sell their votes to immediately benefit “would suffer for a longer period in return.”

For his part, Senator Bato Dela Rosa maintained that accepting money from candidates is “illegal and immoral,” instead opting to advice voters to report vote buyers directly to the police.

Buying and selling votes are punishable with up to six years in jail and disqualification from public office under the election law.