Is Comelec still minding vote-buying?
DAVAO CITY – “Where is the card? Was it given to us?” Commission on Elections spokesperson for Southeastern Mindanao Melcar Unso answered when asked if privilege cards candidates give to voters are not enough evidence for vote-buying.
Unso said in a press conference Friday at the Task Force Davao they had been receiving reports of rampant vote-buying, but all they got are “secondary information.”
The Comelec has declared they lacked personnel to focus entirely on apprehending violators of the Omnibus Election Code Section 261.
“Unless a complaint is filed formally at the City Prosecution Office these reports will not prosper,” he told MindaNews.
“Everything has to go through a due process,” Unso said adding the City Prosecution Office had been deputized to attend to complaints on election violations such as vote buying.
“Will the Comelec wait for complaints to come to its office before acting against vote-buying?” another reporter asked. Unso said Comelec does not have a monopoly of the elections for it is only one of many agencies involved.
While speaking to the I-speak press conference Thursday, a reporter showed a privilege card distributed to voters in Davao City by a party-list group indicating a candidates’ signature and his campaign manager. The card is among those, which pledge free medical privileges, among many for holders.
Unso said Comelec as a quasi-judicial body can hear a case against a violator moto propio but “where are the witnesses?”
“We are equipped with all the laws (against vote buying), but we are slaves to due process. We have to go through the process,” he said.
He said due process is both boon and bane in the election process recognizing the tedious process of lodging a formal complain.
“But this is also a form of protection for all of us,” he said.
Because there are no complaints and no witnesses who stand for a case, Unso said, allegations of vote buying have prevailed.
“The public could be accountable to that for not lodging complaints,” he said.
Section 261 (a) of the Omnibus Election Code states that a person commits vote-buying if he/she ‘gives, offers or promises money or anything of value, gives or promises any office or employment, franchise or grant, public or private or makes of offers to make an expenditure, directly or indirectly, or cause an expenditure to be made 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 or withhold his vote in the election, or to vote for or against any aspirant for the nomination or choice of a candidate in a convention or similar selection process of a political party.’ (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)