CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga — Commission on Elections (COMELEC) urged the public to file formal complaints against vote buyers and vote sellers.
Pampanga Provincial Election Supervisor Fernando Cot-om said that among election offenses, vote buying and vote selling are the hardest election offenses to prosecute due to lack of complaints and witnesses.
“Vote buying and vote selling are very big issues that are akin to cancer in society. However, despite the fact that we know this problem exists, COMELEC and the Department of Justice can only start with the investigation when there is a formal complaint filed before us,” Cot-om said.
Based on the data of COMELEC Central Office for the past three automated national and local elections, there were only 220 cases filed and most of them were dismissed due to non-appearance of complainants and lack of witnesses.
For his part, COMELEC Assistant Regional Director Elmo Duque said vote buying and vote selling are among their greatest challenges.
“The very people that we elect to govern us, to lead us, are the very persons we are going to prosecute. That’s the big dilemma we have right now. In addition, the Omnibus Election Code was promulgated in 1985 so it does not totally cover the entire sphere of what we call vote buying and vote selling,” Duque said.
With this, Cot-om said that a multi-sectoral network is needed to eradicate or at the least, lessen incidences of vote buying and vote selling.
“We alone in the COMELEC cannot solve the problem. We have a short term solution and it is very well within the power of the Comelec to implement or enforce the existing laws against vote buying and vote selling. But we also need to deputize the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines to enforce laws,” Cot-om said.
In terms of long term solution, he said it all boils down to education and the need to change the values of the public.
“Another long term factor is the economic development of people. It has been proven in other countries that the more developed their economic conditions become, the less incidence of vote buying they have,” Cot-om said.
In closing, he reminded the candidates that the reason why they are running for public office is to be of service to the people so there is no need to buy people’s votes.
“For the voters, let us keep in mind that the amount or thing that the candidates give us in exchange of our votes are only temporary. Let us be vigilant of their hidden agenda and remember that the money they use to buy votes are at the expense of government projects if ever they win,” Cot-om said.