The Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman George Garcia has issued a warning to electronic wallet operators in the Philippines. He cautioned these companies that they could be implicated in vote-buying cases if they permit candidates in the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) to use their apps to buy votes. The Comelec has already informed companies such as GCash and Maya, which are involved in mobile payment services, that they could potentially face charges for conspiracy to commit vote-buying.
To combat this issue, the Comelec has advised the e-wallet companies to monitor high-volume transactions, particularly in the days leading up to the election. They have also urged the companies to be vigilant when detecting instances where money is sent to a large number of recipients. Unusually large transactions on platforms like GCash and PayMaya will be closely monitored the Anti-Money Laundering Council and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in collaboration with the Comelec.
In order to strengthen their efforts against vote-buying, the Comelec intends to sign a memorandum of agreement with e-wallet companies. This agreement will outline their joint commitment to combatting this illegal practice during elections. Violators of laws pertaining to vote-buying may face imprisonment for up to six years.
The Comelec has also implemented a “money ban,” which prohibits individuals from carrying cash amounts of P500,000 or more from October 25 until Election Day on October 30. Failure to justify the possession of a large sum of cash may lead the Comelec to assume that the individual is engaging in vote-buying.
To further address this issue, the Comelec has established a Committee on Kontra Bigay (CKB) and launched the Kontra-Bigay Complaint Center. These initiatives aim to receive reports on incidents of vote buying and vote selling. During the 2022 elections, the Comelec received 1,226 reports of vote-buying.
Citizens are encouraged to report instances of vote-buying through various communication channels, including email and social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. The Constitution allows ordinary citizens to perform citizen’s arrests, apprehending criminals caught in the act without a warrant. While the Comelec does not promote citizen’s arrests due to the intense rivalry during the BSKE, the option remains available.
Vote-buying, as defined the Omnibus Election Code, includes offering money or anything of value, promising employment or office, or making other inducements to influence a person’s vote in an election. The International Alliance of Election Watchdogs has considered vote-buying to be the “biggest” flaw in the country’s elections, with the going rate reportedly ranging from P100 to P2,000.
Overall, the Comelec is taking steps to combat vote-buying and has involved electronic wallet operators in their efforts. By monitoring transactions and encouraging the reporting of incidents, they aim to ensure fair and transparent elections in the Philippines.
– The Manila Times
– The Commission on Elections (Comelec)