By Xy Aldrae Murillo

The Commission of Elections on August 10 expressed its support for the passage of a bill that declares vote-buying as a “heinous crime.”

Photo Courtesy of COMELEC/CMFR

Comelec Chairman George Garcia fully supports HB (House Bill) No. 1709 entitled “An Act Defining and Declaring Vote-Buying as a Heinous Crime,” the poll body's acting spokesperson Atty. Rex Laudiangco said.

“[Chairperson] Garcia further stated that these 'modernized' modes of vote-buying/selling are nefariously designed to exploit the inherent loopholes of the outdated provisions of law, and must be addressed without further delay,” he added.

Citing Garcia, Laudiangco argued that the law should include these violations committed through online or over-the-air fund transfers, internet currency transmittals, and other comparable modalities.

Comelec also recommends the redefinition of the terms “vote-buying” and “vote-selling” to have a better criminal investigation and prosecution of the violators.

“Chairman Garcia stated that he believes that if the law includes an updated definition of said election offense along with the Bill's proposed escalation of vote-buying as a heinous crime coupled with stiffer penalties therefore, the law will be more effective, and provide a more functional deterrent,” the acting spokesperson quoted.

Vote-buying, committed when someone provides, offers, or promises money or anything of value in exchange for the public's support for or opposition to a candidate, is an election offense under Section 261 (a) of the Omnibus Election Code.

The House bill was proposed by Rep. Anthony Golez Jr. of the Malasakit at Bayanihan party-list group “to send a strong message to the electorate and the would-be elected officials that Filipinos have had enough of vote-buying during elections.”

Violation of House Bill No. 1709, if passed, would bring about 20 to 30 years of imprisonment.

Edited by Juliana Mondoyo