9 arrested for vote buying, more reports being validated — PNP

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 14) — Only nine people have been arrested by the police for alleged vote buying in the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, despite massive reports of such election violation, officials said Monday.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials also noted incidents of illegal distribution of campaign leaflets near polling precincts, and an "alarming" rise in armed groups' intimidation of candidates to force them to withdraw from the race.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said eight people in Calabarzon and one in Taguig have been arrested for suspected vote buying.

"Kaliwa't-kanan ang reports. Ako, bugbog ang cellphone ko with reports of vote buying. What we do is we let the local units check on these. Hindi pinapawalang-bahala, we always check and respond," he told a media briefing.

[Translation:I've been receiving a lot of reports of vote buying, my cellphone is constantly receiving such reports. We ask the local units to check on these. We always check and respond to these reports.]

Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said vote buying remains a problem in certain areas. He said election authorities have received reports of such incidents in Central Luzon and Western Visayas.

"Unfortunately, vote buying remains one of the favorite pastimes of politicians. Thankfully, the citizenry is catching up... We've had reports of successful stings of vote buyers, particularly in the regions," he told CNN Philippines.

But Albayalde said despite the reports, authorities are carefully validating the claims of vote buying. He said there is "massive" reporting because opposing candidates report their rival to be engaging in the illegal activity.

"Kaya massive ang reports kasi one party will report the vote buying then another will also report the vote buying so that itong pulis natin… kaya we are really careful sa reports," the PNP chief said.

Vote buying and vote selling are prohibited and punishable by law under the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines.

Comelec urged the public to formally file complaints backed with evidence.

"We ask them to file sa Comelec so we can quickly act on those complaints," Comelec acting Chairman Al Parreño said.

Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said aside from vote buying, there are reports of candidates or their parties using children to distribute campaign leaflets near polling precincts. She pointed out such activities are illegal and a violation of election laws.

"This is one tactic of candidates they think they can get away with. Well, we have those leaflets. In my opinion, the names on those leaflets are liable under our election law," she said. "Complaints should be filed against them."

Guanzon added there is an "alarming" rise in another form of intimidation reported during this election period wherein armed groups force candidates to withdraw from the race.

"Threats are being used for candidates to withdraw. This is election violence of a subtle but obvious form," the Comelec Commissioner said.

Guanzon said these election violations thrive in the Philippine culture because of the lack of accountability.

"Dapat talaga magfile ng complaint. Bakit hindi mapigilan ang mga kandidato? Kasi alam nila they can get away with it. Trabaho ng Comelec begins – hindi lang sa pagreceive ng complaint – kung hindi sa investigation at prosecution," she said.

[Translation: You know why this keeps on happening? Because candidates think they can get away with it. A complaint has to be filed. Comelec's job begins from the receipt of the complaint, to the investigation and prosecution.]

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) earlier claimed money from the illegal drug trade is funding vote buying by candidates in barangay elections.

The barangay and SK elections was initially scheduled for October 31, 2016. It was postponed to October 23, 2017, then rescheduled to May 2018.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he fears "drug money will seep into the electoral protest," adding that postponing the elections will prevent this from happening.