The Commission on Elections will use what it calls the “totality rule” in determining if giving away of cash during the campaign period by any candidate or by the candidate’s surrogates is vote-buying, which is punishable under the Omnibus Election Code.

Comelec Commissioner George Garcia, speaking to ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo, said giving ayuda or assistance during the campaign period did not automatically mean that act constituted vote-buying, especially if the poll body issued a certificate of exemption to the candidate to give out such ayuda or relief goods.

“However, if it is not related to the regular service of local government, then we can investigate because it is illegal without permission of Comelec,” he said in Filipino.

The poll commissioner said that while Comelec could motu proprio investigate alleged vote-buying incidents, the poll body could also act if a formal complaint were filed especially if the person was there during the distribution of the money.

He added Comelec could also decide on a disqualification case even after the elections and the candidate accused had won.

Meanwhile, Malacanang said Friday voters must reject vote-buying to ensure a clean and honest May 9 polls.

Acting Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Michel Kristian Ablan, citing the Omnibus Election Code, said any individual engaged in vote-buying or vote-selling would be slapped with appropriate sanctions.

“The Palace reminds the Filipino people that vote-buying and vote-selling are prohibited acts under the Omnibus Election Code,” Ablan said.
Section 261(a) of the law states that vote-buying and selling involve “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.”

The Commission on Elections said complaints must be filed at once while a task force would investigate reports of vote-buying.

Any person found guilty of any election offense shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years and shall not be subject to probation.

“In addition, the guilty party shall be sentenced to suffer disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage,” the law states.