By Leslie Ann Aquino
The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) on Friday endorsed to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) various reports on vote-buying it received.
In a press briefing, PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica said that, among the vote-buying reports, both verified and unverified, received by his office were those from the City of Santiago Isabela, City of Ozamiz, City of Manila and Muntinlupa City.
“We also included social media reports because such reports must be addressed by the government. They should not be abated and disregarded. My office will be here to assists complainants to comply with the form prescribed by the Comelec,” he said.
“Unless and until the elections are free and clean, democracy will not be beneficial to us,” added Belgica.
He also encouraged everyone to report all cases of vote-buying saying every report will have a significant effect in the fight against corruption.
“Do not be afraid. We will protect you and file appropriate charges against the violators,” Belgica said.
The PACC official said vote-buying and election fraud have been destroying the country’s democratic process.
“Vote buying is a corrupt election practice that obstructs our democratic process by impeding the exercise of our rights to freely choose our leaders. When a candidate chooses to pay for your votes, they show utter disregard for our democratic process and a willingness to use illegal means to further their interests.” Belgica said.
Comelec Commissioner Al Parreno also called on the public to be vigilant against vote-buying.
“We hope to receive many reports because we want to put an end to the practice which undermines our electoral processes,” he said.
On Wednesday, a task force against vote buying has been created by the poll body ahead of the May 13 midterm polls for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting vote-buying cases.
Vote-buying is defined as any person, who gives, offers, or promises money or anything of value, directly or indirectly, in order to induce anyone or the public, in general, to vote for or against any candidate.
It is considered an election offense, which carries the penalty of one to six years imprisonment, removal of the right to vote, and disqualification to hold public office.