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Comelec coinage: CCTV to curb fraud

The problem of vote buying in the country can be resolved with the help of CCTV or what election officials define as “Concerned Citizens Taking Video” footage of the illegal deed. Vote buying, an election offense, is rampant but no one seems to be paying attention to it, said lawyer Ferdinand Rafanan,  planning director of the Commission on Elections who gave another meaning to the acronym. “It’s so easy to gather evidence, arrest and file a case against those involved. There is what we call CCTV or concerned citizen taking video. If there is a video of someone engaged in vote buying or vote selling, we can have evidence. So if you have a task force, we will conduct buy-bust operation,” he said. Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes said the commission is taking steps to address vote buying and a resolution on the issue will be issued by the poll body before the May election. He said that vote buying can be eradicated or curbed with the help of the people using video cameras. Rafanan proposed the creation of a special task force that will monitor vote buying. “We should create anti-vote buying task force for every region.” He said he expected fewer incidents of cheating to occur during the election because of the automated system and the use of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. The problem arises when public officials or the public  fail to deal  with the wrongdoing during elections, he said. “No one cares or dares to act on the matter, to eradicate vote buying because everybody’s happy and because of this, the qualified candidates are the ones who suffer. They deserve to win but they have no chance;  election is reduced to a contest of money and not the contest of will of the people,” he said. James Jimenez, Comelec spokesman, said in a recent forum that voters’ education is the key to changing the mindset of voters. Sometimes, voters vote for candidates who give them money, he said. “The problem is a lot of our voters do not have the same sort of criteria that we define as being necessary criteria for intelligent voting, he said. For his part, Brillantes said that a resolution may be issued at least 10 days before the May 13 midterm polls. “Vote buying happens and really being used a few days before the elections, usually a day or two days before,” the poll chief said. Vote buying is an election offense but the Comelec has yet to prosecute a single candidate for that unlawful action. Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code defines vote-buying as “any person who gives, offers or promises money or anything of value, gives or promises any office or employment, franchise or grant, public or private, or makes or offers to make an expenditure, directly or indirectly, or cause an expenditure to be made to any person, association, corporation, entity, or community 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.” Vote-selling, on the other hand, is an action  by “any person, association, corporation, group or community who solicits or receives, directly or indirectly, any expenditure or promise of any office or employment, public or private, for any of the foregoing considerations.” Violators will be penalized with imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years and shall not be subject to probation. The guilty party will also be barred from holding public office and deprived of the right of suffrage while a political party found guilty shall be sentenced to pay a fine of not less than P10,000, which shall be imposed if their officials will be found guilty of the crime.
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