Comelec swamped with vote-buying complaints; commish says ‘no significant effect’ on poll outcome

Published May 14, 2022, 3:37 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has received more than 1,000 reports of vote-buying incidents that are related to the recently held national and local elections but a poll commissioner said these have not significantly affected the outcome of the elections.

Comelec Commissioner Aimee Ferolino speaks in a press briefing at the PICC in Pasay City on May 14, 2022. (Photo by MARTIN A. SADONGDONG / MANILA BULLETIN

At least 930 complaints were sent thru the Facebook page of the Task Force Kontra Bigay, headed by Comelec Commissioner Aimee Ferolino, while 164 were sent via e-mail.

“We have received more than a thousand reports but we have verified more than a hundred [complaints] where we can file cases and these have supporting evidence,” Ferolino said in a press briefing on Saturday, May 14.

Out of the reported vote buying incidents, Ferolino said 88 were considered “valid reports” and have been officially recorded while 49 were submitted “with supporting evidence.”

In the sixth district of Quezon City, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) assisted a voter who executed an affidavit complaint for vote buying against a district representative.

Meanwhile, the Comelec Law Department also received 73 vote buying concerns since February 9, of which, 50 cases were acted upon, 12 were docketed, and the rest were undergoing evaluation.

For the Philippine National Police, a case of vote-buying was recorded in Naic, Cavite where an individual was reported to be distributing sample ballots with money.

“Probably these [vote buying incidents] have no significant effect [on the outcome of the elections]. I don’t know the particular location of the complainants. Maybe it would affect, maybe not,” Ferolino said.

“But with the current high voter turnout, if some people sold their votes or got influenced, maybe they will be outnumbered by those who voted without agenda behind, those who voted according to their conscience,” she added. The Comelec en banc has so far canvassed 139 out of 173 certificates of canvass, covering 60.65 million registered voters. Out of this, the voter turnout was 83.77 percent.

Ferolino cited the lack of evidence and willing witnesses who would testify in the vote buying complaints as the reasons why only a few complaints were actually considered to be worthy of investigation by the Comelec.

“Many of the reported vote buying incidents that were reported to us involve fearful complainants. Some have no witnesses or evidence,” Ferolino said.

“Some were just expressing their frustration against a particular candidate since they are supporting a rival candidate,” she added.

The commissioner refused to identify the candidates who are the subject of investigation by the Comelec although she confirmed that there were “a mix” of national and local candidates.

“I cannot yet disclose the personalities but for sure there will be a mix of candidates who are involved and who will possibly be facing, or supporters who will face criminal charges,” Ferolino said.