A video that went the rounds of social media was said to have been taken from a polling precinct on election day. It showed a man with his back to the camera wearing a t-shirt with the face and name of Ilocos Norte candidate Sandro Marcos. Above Sandro’s likeness were the faces of his father Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte.
People could be seen taking their turns approaching the man, who then handed out money bills to each one, before a table where persons were seated and appeared to be looking at a list and then checking out what could have been names on the list. There was no indication where in the country this was.
Comelec spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco announced in a press conference: “Please help us. We really are determined and we really have the intention to go after these people. Ultimately the evidence the prosecution will use and eventually conviction in court are with you.”
Say that again, Mr. Laudiangco?
National dailies have reported that last March 22, Cavite governor Jonvic Remulla gave away cash prizes an hour before a scheduled mini-rally of the Marcos-Duterte Uniteam. This was in a covered court in barangay San Juan in Dasmariñas city.
Remulla was seen handing out cash prizes from a roll of blue paper bills to the three best singers in the crowd and then followed by a dance showdown for gays. Then Remulla announced another singing contest for another round of cash prizes.
Interviewed by reporters, Remulla claimed what he did was not an election offense. He said the event was not a Uniteam sortie at that point because the national candidates had not yet arrived. “It was just a gathering before they arrived,” he reasoned. But it was a Uniteam rally all right. The entire venue was filled with campaign materials of Uniteam candidates including “two huge streamers for Marcos and Duterte,” reporters noted.
“It was not an election offense,” Remulla insisted. Comelec’s Laudiangco: here is the evidence you said you seek. The ball is now in your court.
And Comelec, this is what your own website says about vote-buying, referencing Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code:
“Any person who gives, offers or promises money or anything of value, gives or promises any office or employment, franchise or grant, public or private, or makes or 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.”
The same section of the Code can address the video of the man with the Sandro Marcos t-shirt handing out money:
“Wagering upon result of election. – Any person who bets or wagers upon the outcome of, or any contingency connected with an election. Any money or thing of value or deposit of money or thing of value situated anywhere in the Philippines put as such bet or wager shall be forfeited to the government.”
What makes Comelec indifferent to these possible violations of the law? “Let us respect the outcome of the elections,” says Martin Andanar. And respect vote buying as a matter of opinion and not of law?
For instance, there was a spike of sales of mobile phones in Mindanao after election day. What did Laudiangco say? “Speaking from a lawyer’s point of view, the escalation of purchases of cellphones, in itself, does not automatically mean anomalies or a crime has been committed. In fact, this is not a crime.” He has stated the obvious. Eyes on the ball, Comelec. The issue is vote buying. The spike in mobile phone sales is the consequence of the overflowing money.
“The matter has been delegated to the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines for investigation.” Say that again, Comelec?
“Republic of the Philippines, Commission on Elections . . . protecting the sanctity of the ballot since 1940,” announces the Comelec website’s banner.