Comelec chief chided for encouraging voters to accept money

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MANILA, April 28, 2013—Accepting money from a politician, even if the receiver does not vote for him will still constitute a bribe and vote buying, a Church-based election group said. 

Dilaab Foundation’s Circles of Discernment for Empowerment slammed Comelec Chief Sixto Brillantes for apparently encouraging voters to accept money given them by politicians as long as they don’t vote for the giver. 

Brillantes’ pronouncement that goes: “Accept anything that is given to you, but don’t vote for the one who gave the money. Maybe that should be the rule,” met with strong criticisms from the group saying the statement sends conflicting messages with regards to vote buying. 

“By encouraging such behaviour, [Brillantes] actually seriously compromises sec. 261a of the Omnibus Election Code (i.e. “prohibited acts – vote-buying and vote-selling”). This promotes tolerance for and condoning of bribery by encouraging voters to be bribed in exercising their constitutional right to vote, regardless of the intention of the pronouncement,” Dilaab said in a strongly-worded statement. 

The declaration from the Comelec chief is “alarming and dangerous”, it said, as this “may encourage poll officials like canvassers, election inspectors, and COMELEC deputized law enforcers, who are targets of bribe money, to accept bribes from candidates as long as they do their duties.” 

The group called on the Comelec chief to lead the charge in enforcing election laws and should be “the last to surrender – in its mission to ensure fair, honest and clean elections.” 

But “how can this [honest election] happen when such pronouncement encourages voters to be corrupted and the candidates to corrupt the electorate? How can one make the “right choice” after committing a “wrongful and unlawful act”? This is twisting and distorting our people’s values,” the statement further read. 

The group said it would be extremely difficult if not impossible for poll officials to do their job properly “under the influence of money.” 

The idea of ‘getting the money but voting according to one’s conscience’ has been around during elections but has never eradicated the practice of vote buying, the group said. 

Encouraging the voters to do the practice would mean giving themselves to the highest bidder, the group added. 

As vote buying destroys the value of honesty and corrupts the voters, “a dishonest and corrupted electorate produces dishonest and corrupted government and leaders,” the group said. 

“If we wish to have a better and honest government, let us start by ensuring a fair and honest electoral process and electorate,” Dilaab and its partners said, strongly urging Brillantes “not to surrender but to face the challenge with hope and courage that change can happen and evil can be overcome.”  

The group also called on Filipino voters to “reject vote-buying, bribery and corruption during elections, and to restore and uphold honesty in exercising our right of suffrage through freedom from bribery.” (CBCPNews)

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