The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has designated Commissioner Aimee Ferolino to head the task force on vote-buying.
Commissioner George Garcia announced the information after attending the poll body’s en banc meeting on March 30.
Ferolino hogged the headlines earlier this year after retired Comelec commissioner Rowena Guanzon criticized her for delaying the release of a ruling on the disqualification case against former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Guanzon, who would have voted to disqualify Marcos, said Ferolino had delayed the decision until Guanzon was retired.
Garcia said Ferolino would call a meeting with the task force and draft the necessary guidelines. He said the task force would accept complaints on vote buying or investigate reports on its own initiative.
The task force “Kontra Bigay” will be composed of the Comelec, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Earlier, the Comelec had warned local candidates that holding raffles or giving away in-kind donations can be considered vote buying.
“They probably think they could get away with it. Maybe they did get away with it before the campaign period and we said fine… but now that the local campaign period has started you can no longer cite [the] Peñera [doctrine],” Garcia said.
Garcia referred to the landmark case of Rosalinda A. Penera v. Commission on Elections and Edgar T. Andanar in which the Supreme Court declared that “a candidate is only liable for election offenses only upon the start of the election period.”
This means that expenses of candidates before the start of the campaign period are not covered by campaign guidelines.
Garcia said vote-buying does not necessarily involve giving money as cited in Section 261 of Omnibus Election Code.
“A promise can be considered vote-buying if that is what influences their vote. It’s not based on the amount. What’s important is that your intention in giving is to buy their vote,” he said.