By Martin Sadongdong
Police General Oscar Albayalde, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief, was just joking when he said that voters should accept the bribe money from candidates on election day, but still vote according to their conscience, a police spokesperson insisted Tuesday.
Police Colonel Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson, emphasized that the organization was committed to fight all forms of corrupt practices leading to the May 13 midterm polls.
“The statement of General Albayalde was made out of jest. But seriously, we maintain… we have our campaign against bribery. It is called Ang Suhol Iwaksi Natin or ASIN,” Banac said.
ASIN is a non-profit and non-partisan advocacy program launched by the PNP earlier this month to “promote a safe and secure elections” by encouraging voters to reject all forms of bribery and vote-buying.
“That remark was just Albayalde’s way to give emphasis to the public that we should be serious in our duty to ensure an honest, peaceful and orderly elections this May,” Banac added.
In a press conference at Camp Crame Monday, Albayalde admitted that vote-buying was one of the hardest challenges for the PNP in the upcoming polls.
“Ang vote buying napakahirap bantayan it’s because seemingly almost all of the candidates, we’re not saying everybody, but almost all of them have allegations of vote buying. Lahat ito kailangan bantayan na mga kandidato (Vote buying is very hard to deal with it’s because seemingly almost all of the candidates, we’re not saying everybody, but almost all of them have allegations of vote buying. We need to guard all of the candidates),” he said.
He then went on to say that voters should just accept the bribe money from candidates but still vote according to their conscience on the election day.
“Sabihin na natin nabigyan tayo ng pera hindi natin maiwasan na tumanggap ng ano but then again iboto natin kung sino ang nararapat. Kung hindi maano ng pulis ‘yang vote buying, tanggapin na lang natin siguro ‘yong pera pero iboto pa rin natin kung sino ang nararapat (Let’s say we are give money, sometimes we can’t avoid that but then again let us still vote for the worthy candidates. If the police have difficulty in dealing with vote buying, might as well accept the money but vote for the right ones),” he said.
Albayalde’s statement did not sit well with officials from the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
“Comelec has always said, do not take the money at all. It’s as if you start to believe that under certain conditions, it is okay to do the wrong thing. That’s not something that we want to encourage among all voters,” Comelec spokesperon James Jimenez was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
Under Section 261 of the Batas Pambansa Bilang 261, vote buying is referred to as the act of giving, offering, or promising money or anything of value “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.”
It is considered a corrupt practice by the Comelec and is punishable by imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years, and the disqualification from holding public office both for the persons who bribed and the one who accepted the bribe.