Comelec acting spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco (File photo)

MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday expressed its support for the measure seeking to declare vote-buying as a heinous crime.

“The Comelec, through Chairman George Erwin M. Garcia, fully supports the passage of HB (House Bill) No. 1709 entitled “An Act Defining and Declaring Vote-Buying as a Heinous Crime”, authored and filed by Malasakit at Bayanihan Rep. Anthony Golez, Jr.,” said Comelec acting spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco in a statement.

Once the bill is approved, the penalty for such offense will be punishable by 20 to 40 years imprisonment.

Meanwhile, Laudiangco said the poll body is seeking to revisit the law, particularly Section 261 (a) of the Omnibus Election Code (BP Blg. 881, as amended), which provides for the definition of vote-buying and vote-selling.

“This specific recommendation is made insofar as the updating of the definition of vote-buying and vote-selling, to be more attuned to current times and situations, particularly encompassing vote-buying/selling via online or over-the-air fund-transfers, internet cash transmittals and other analogous modalities,” he said.

Laudiangco said an amendment to the definition will result in better criminal investigation and case build-up which will culminate in a "more effective and efficient prosecution" of offenders.

“(Chairperson) Garcia further stated that these 'modernized' modes of vote-buying/selling are nefariously designed to exploit the inherent loopholes of the outdated provisions of law, must be addressed without further delay,” he added.

He said the poll body also believes that the measure will serve as a more functional deterrent if includes an updated definition of vote-buying aside from its escalation as a heinous crime that will be meted with stiffer penalties.

Under the Omnibus Election Code, it is considered an election offense if one engages in vote-buying, wherein an individual gives, offers, or promises money or anything of value in order to induce the public to vote for or against any candidate.

Currently, vote-buying carries the penalty of one to six years imprisonment, removal of the right to vote, and disqualification to hold public office.

As of June this year, the poll body said 17 complaints that involve alleged vote-buying and selling are set to undergo preliminary investigations. (PNA)