By Marie Tonette Marticio and Tara Yap
Amid reports of rampant vote-buying in Eastern Visayas, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has appealed to netizens to file complaints of vote-buying instead of posting supposed vote-buying incidents on social media.
Posts circulating online show handbills with names of candidates stapled to banknotes ranging from R20 to R3,000.
Rafael Olaño, Acting Comelec regional director, stressed that complainants and witnesses are needed before the poll body can take action on vote-buying cases.
Olaño said it would be a challenge for Comelec to verify each vote-buying incident posted online.
“We really need to eradicate vote-buying now. It really happens that is why we are implementing measures to address it,” he said.
Vote-buying is a form of cheating and is punishable by law, he said.
“We discourage candidates from doing it because if you get caught, you may be disqualified, and you may also be imprisoned,” Olaño said.
Olaño’s sentiment is shared by Roberto Salazar, Comelec’s Iloilo provincial director.
Salazar said Section 261-A of the Omnibus Election Code requires a written complaint and a witness before Comelec can act on a particular case.
He also said vote-buying is “very hard to prove.”
“It’s not politicians who are directly buying votes. We have to link the buyer and the politician,” Salazar told Manila Bulletin.
Police Brig. Gen. John Bulalacao, Western Visayas police director, earlier disclosed he has been receiving complaints of vote-buying.
Comelec offices in Iloilo province are also receiving complaints of vote-buying and the distribution of envelopes containing money and sample ballots.