Congress needs to clearly define vote-buying, after a bill has been filed that seeks to declare the election offense as a heinous crime, according to Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair George Garcia.
“For these proposed penalties against vote-buying to be effective, we should define it properly. We should enumerate the acts that will be considered as vote-buying in our current times,” the poll official, in a GMA News report, said.
“Our respected lawmakers should also think of other amendments [ to the bill ] besides the implementation of heavier penalties and punishment. It would be better if they were to point out the root of it all. What is the root of the problem? It would be better to concretize the true definition of vote buying,” he said.
Garcia also urged for the amendment of the 1985 Omnibus Election Code to which vote-buying penalties are still being imposed, as its definitions are not up-to-date with more contemporary methods of vote-buying.
“At the time, they cannot buy votes using online means and platforms and it is not considered as vote-buying yet. Therefore, the definition of vote-buying in our current law is no longer effective,” he said.
Garcia said by defining what vote-buying is, Congress “can address the loopholes of the existing law.”
Malasakit and Bayanihan Party-List Representative Anthony Golez has filed the said bill.
Under House Bill 1709, vote-buying is defined as giving and offering money or anything of value including the promise of employment in any office and granting of a private or public contract in exchange of votes during elections.
The proposed legislation states that candidates who are found guilty of giving or offering money, promising employment, and granting public or private contact in exchange for votes shall be imprisoned for 20 to 40 years, and fined not less than P5 million and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.People who will be exchanging their votes for money, or employment, with either public or private contracts will be imprisoned for one to six years, with a fine of not less than P 100,000 and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
Golez, in his drafted bill, defined vote-buying as the “giving and offering money or anything of value, including the promise of employment in any office, and granting of a public or private contract, in exchange for votes during elections”. Chelsea Din