Comelec: Despite 'humanitarian' excuse, giving out money during campaign period still vote buying

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 28) —The Commission on Elections stressed Thursday that formally declared political candidates who give out money during the campaign period will have to undergo "due process" to determine their true intentions.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source on Thursday, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said there is a case that can be made for vote buying, even for people who reason that they hand out money for "humanitarian purposes."

"Remember, ang depensa ng gumagawa niyan [Remember, the defense of some camps] especially for those who do it in the open is they do it for humanitarian purposes," Jimenez said when asked whether a political aspirant like Sen. Manny Pacquiao can be held liable for handing out money ahead of the campaign season.

"Definitely, magkakaroon ng due process diyan. Magkakaroon ng depensa ang mga gumagawa. But again, sa ordinaryong pananaw ng tao, kapag nakita ‘yan, sasabihin vote buying ‘yan," he added.

[Translation: Definitely, there will be due process there. These political camps that do it will have their own defense. But again, in the eyes of the ordinary people, if they see it, they will think of it as vote buying.]

Jimenez said there is "something wrong" with handing out money to people, since it impacts how voters think about the elections. Political candidates who make such offers during the campaign season also "have a lot of defenses available to them," but their true intent will have to be formally determined.

Pacquiao earlier drew criticism for his supposed premature campaigning where he gave out money during his visit in Batangas. The boxer-turned-politician himself confirmed that he gave out bundles of ₱1,000 cash in a relief activity, but reasoned that he has been doing it for decades using his personal money.

Jimenez said that for now, what Pacquiao is doing still cannot be considered vote buying, since the campaign period has not yet started. But once the official season begins, it would be another story, he added.

"Kung mapatunayan at malinaw na ginagawa ‘yan kapalit ng boto [If it can be proven that he’s doing it in exchange of votes], yes, there is a case to be made for vote buying," he said.

Buying and selling votes are election offenses that are punishable with imprisonment of up to six years, disqualification from holding public office and forfeiture of voting rights, according to the Omnibus Election Code.