Villar’s 20-peso handout to kids may be ‘vote-buying’
KIMBERLY JANE T. TAN
Handing out money to children “may be considered” vote buying, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said, hours after Nacionalista Party (NP) standard bearer Senator Manuel Villar gave Php 20 bills to kids while on a campaign sortie in Batangas province.
The act “may be considered” vote-buying, Comelec Law Department Head Ferdinand Rafanan told GMANews.TV, citing the Omnibus Election Code.
Under Article 12, Section 261 of the code, vote buying constitutes the act of giving, offering, or promising money or anything of value, including promises of “employment, franchise or grant, public or private.”
Vote-buying also involves making or offering to incur expenses that will, directly or indirectly, benefit a person, association, corporation, entity, or community “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.”
This developed a day after the NP candidates violated a military regulation against campaigning inside camps when they held a unity walk and raised each other’s hands inside Camp Aguinaldo on Thursday.
“Senator Villar and members of his party made a unity walk and raised the hands of their candidates. [AFP chief General Victor Ibrado] instructed that the group of Senator Villar be warned against repeating such actions when they visit Colonel [Ariel] Querubin in the future,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public information office chief Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. said in a press statement released shortly after the visit.
Vote-buying provision ‘vague’
In the meantime, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said he is unable to determine whether giving kids money would constitute vote buying because the recipients are not of voting age, he told GMANews.TV in a text message.
Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento likewise admitted that the provision was too “vague.”
“Di naman sinasabi na voting age, pwedeng sabihin na mga bata naman yan,” he told GMANews.TV in an interview.
(It didn’t say that the person should be of voting age, so they can say that it’s okay to give children money because they can’t vote),”
He did say however that giving children money might influence people close to them to vote for a candidate.
“By inducing the parents through the children, pwedeng pumasok doon (that can still fall under that provision),” he said.
“Sinuman ang magbibigay ng pera or anything of value para paboran ang isang kandidato will be considered as vote-buying. This applies to everyone,” he added.
(Whoever gives money or anything of value to favor a candidate will be considered vote-buying.)
Giving out scholarships to students might also be considered vote buying because he is giving something of “value” to someone, Sarmiento said.
The commissioner thus advised the public to file a complaint so that they can investigate such cases.
“The Comelec and the public should work together, kung may report na ganyan, dapat tumindig yung mga tao,” he said.
(If there are reports like that, the people should make a stand and report them.)
Gesture only shows Villar’s compassion
In the meantime, the NP denied that Villar’s action constituted vote-buying.
“Let us not make a mountain out of a molehill,” Gilbert Remulla, NP spokesperson and senatorial bet said in a text message to GMANews.TV. “That could not have been vote-buying. Those are innocent children. That was simply Senator Villar’s way of showing his compassion for those children in whom he saw himself as a kid.”
Vote buying constitutes an election offense which is punishable by one to six years imprisonment, disenfranchisement, and disqualification from holding public office.
Most violations committed in the 2007 elections were of vote buying and vote selling with 35 cases, data culled by GMANews.TV from the Comelec Law Department indicate.
There were also 13 cases of threat, intimidation, and coercion and 11 cases of partisanship. – with Amita O. Legaspi, RJAB Jr., GMANews.TV