MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is eyeing to impose a “money ban” to combat vote buying and selling during the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) on Oct. 30.
In an interview Tuesday, Comelec Chairperson George Erwin Garcia said under Section 27 of the draft of Kontra Bigay resolution, the poll body may presume vote buying or selling through one's "possession or transport" of cash exceeding PHP500,000 five days before the election day.
"Hindi natin pipigilan ang pagwi-withdraw ng mahigit PHP500,000. Ang atin pong ipo-prohibit at ipa-punish ay yung pagpapadala ng PHP500,000 lalo na kapag pumasok yung period ng kampanya (We will not prohibit withdrawal of PHP500,000. What we will prohibit and punish are those sending PHP500,000 especially when the campaign period starts)," he said.
However, Garcia said individuals with justifiable backgrounds shall be exempted, including businessmen and disbursement officers or cashiers, among others.
"Saan ka naman nakakita may dala kang kalahating milyon isang araw bago mag election tapos ni hindi ka treasurer, ni hindi ka negosyante? Ano ka, tagapamili ng boto? So ipe-presume namin yung mga taong yan involved sa vote buying (Where can you see someone carrying half a million [pesos] before the election day and you're not a treasurer nor a businessman? What [kind of worker] are you, a vote buyer? So, we will presume that person is involved in vote buying)," he said.
All police authorities are tasked to conduct 24-hour money ban checkpoints nationwide.
Garcia said although these measures are not under the law, setting such is also not prohibited.
Garcia said the Comelec has submitted the draft of Kontra Bigay resolution to en banc for approval of the proposed money ban and other measures, and setting of guidelines.
Besides transporting or delivering large sums of money, Comelec also aims to monitor the splitting of at least PHP20,000 cash into smaller denominations of PHP100s, PHP50s or PHP20s.
It also targets to cooperate with mobile banking and digital payment platforms to ensure they are not used for vote buying or selling.
"Ang GCash, PayMaya at iba pa pong platform ay under ng BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas). Kausap natin ang BSP at pati na ang AMLC (Anti-Money Laundering Council) (The Gcash, PayMaya and other platforms are under BSP. We are coordinating with the BSP and AMLC)," Garcia said.
Under the Comelec draft resolution, long queues of registered voters for distribution of cash or other favors shall also be subject to the action of law enforcement.
Apart from stringent monetary measures, the Comelec also seeks to create an official Kontra Bigay committee, with a complaint center for efficiency.
The complaint center is expected to operate from Aug. 28 to Oct. 28 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 24/7 starting Oct. 29 to 31.
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) assures it will exert its utmost courtesy when conducting inspections at checkpoints.
“Ang PNP ay tutulong diyan sa pamamagitan ng mga nilatag nating Comelec checkpoints at titingnan natin yung mga sasakyan na dumadaan sa checkpoints at ang pagpapatupad niyan ay yung plain view doctrine kung saan [ang] ating mga kapulisan ay mag-iinspect ng mga sasakyan sa pamamagitan lamang ng pagtingin sa loob ng sasakyan. Ipinagbabawal yung pagsasaliksik at yung paghahalughog. Kung may makikita na dahilan para mas maging masinsin yung pagsasaliksik ay yun lang ang gagawin. So, plain view doctrine (The PNP will help with manning the Comelec checkpoints. We will look at the vehicles that pass through the checkpoints and the implementation of that is through the plain view doctrine where our police officers will inspect the vehicles by only looking at the inside of the car. Foraging and search are prohibited. If there is a reason to be more thorough in the search, that's the only time that we will do it. So, plain view doctrine),” PNP Public Information chief Brig. Gen. Redrico Maranan told reporters when sought for a comment in a press briefing on Tuesday held at Camp Crame.
He said that exempted are messengers, cashiers and other employees whose jobs involve transporting money for their companies and all they have to show is their company ID as proof of their employment.
Maranan said they will continue to monitor the 27 "areas of grave concern" for the coming BSKE.
“On the part of the PNP, meron tayong tinitingnan na 27 barangays na puwedeng mailagay doon sa red category pero tuloy tuloy pa rin yung ginagawang validation sapagkat itong 27 na ito ay nakabase lang sa historical data (On the part of the PNP, we are looking at 27 barangays that can be placed in the red category, but the validation process is still ongoing because these 27 are based only on historical data),” he said.
The PNP is also keeping a close watch on the province of Negros Oriental and areas in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao noting that security adjustments would be made in these areas as the need arises. (With a report from Christopher Lloyd T. Caliwan/PNA)