What Comelec says about vote buying, other election offenses amid online allegations

October 18, 2021 - 5:59 PM
Vote buying
Bills handed in envelopes in this undated photo. (The STAR/Boy Santos/File Photo)

Vote buying and other activities that are prohibited during the campaign season of the 2022 elections are not yet sanctionable amid such alleged reports online.

Spokesperson James Jimenez of the Commission on Elections on Friday tweeted that campaign rules apply to the political aspirants “only at the start of the campaign period.”

This includes the prohibition on vote buying.

According to the Comelec, the campaign period for national positions would start on February 8 until May 7, 2022 while those vying for local posts may campaign from March 25 to May 7, 2022.

The elections would be held on May 9, 2022.

Jimenez’s tweet comes amid allegations of Sen. Manny Pacquiao participating in supposed vote buying during his visit to Batangas last week.

Reports said that the presidential aspirant, who is also an “adopted son of Batangas,” visited the province to give goods and cash aids to residents affected by the Taal Volcano eruption last year.

Pacquiao was seen in a video handing out P1,000 each.

In response, the retired boxer said that he has been helping out people since 2002 and that the cash provided was from his own pocket.

“Pwede mong masabing vote-buying kung ngayon ko lang ginagawa, pero noon pa ‘yan eh. Habit ko ‘yan eh—bago pa mag-pandemya at nagdesisyon ako tumakbo. Namimigay ako ng ganyan mula pang 2002 hanggang ngayon, patuloy akong namimigay nga ayuda… at pabahay,” he was quoted as saying.

Pacquiao’s camp in a separate statement said that he gave out cash to “fulfill” the promise he made to Batangas locals in November 2020.

“Pacquiao first visited Batangas to distribute relief and extend financial support during the eruption of Taal in January 2020. He followed this up with another relief assistance visit in November 2020 where he promised that he would return after his fight to provide more help,” it reads.

Election lawyer Emil Marañon said that all election-related offenses and regulations governing the political aspirants have “no legal force and effect before the start of the campaign period.”

“Violations thereof cannot also be prosecuted as under Sec. 13 of R.A. No. 9369, ‘unlawful acts or omissions applicable to a candidate shall effect only upon that start of the aforesaid campaign period,'” he wrote on Twitter.

Section 13 of Republic Act 9369 notes the following:

“Any person who files his certificate of candidacy within this period shall only be considered as a candidate at the start of the campaign period for which he filed his certificate of candidacy: Provided, That, unlawful acts or omissions applicable to a candidate shall effect only upon that start of the aforesaid campaign period: Provided, finally, That any person holding a public appointive office or position, including active members of the armed forces, and officers, and employees in government-owned or-controlled corporations, shall be considered ipso factor resigned from his/her office and must vacate the same at the start of the day of the filing of his/her certification of candidacy.”

Comelec Commissioner Antonio Kho Jr. also said that “there is no such thing as premature campaigning” as election bets are only considered candidates at the start of campaign period.

Jimenez previously said that the poll body will start to monitor the campaign activities of those who have filed their Certificate of Candidacies earlier this month.

“The Comelec will start monitoring October 1 so that we know, even though there’s not really a whole lot we can do with it, we know how much they’re spending. We have an idea of what sort of spending is going on because even now, there’s a lot of reporting coming out about how much these people spend,” he said in an interview last July.