The Electoral Commission (Comelec) will file charges motu proprio, or on its own initiative, against violators of campaign rules even as it prepares to launch the “Kontra Bigay” interagency task force that will act on official complaints.
Comelec commissioner George Garcia said campaign violations had been “manageable so far”, but stressed the polling body would be “serious” in its resolve to prosecute election violators.
Asked if Comelec plans to file complaints against campaign violators itself, Garcia replied in a message to reporters: “Yes. The seriousness of our determination should never be underestimated by anyone.
He also said the polling organization would activate Kontra Bigay (Against Vote Buying) next week.
It will be composed of representatives from Comelec, Department of Justice, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Commission Presidential Anti-Corruption and the Philippine News Agency.
Formal complaints can be filed with Comelec’s legal department or one of the agencies that are part of Kontra Bigay, said Garcia, who was an election lawyer before his appointment to the election body.
“Because of these extensive coordination efforts, immediate actions motu proprio or based on formal complaints involving vote buying [are] expected. As we have said before, our commitment to eliminating this irregularity is unprecedented,” he said.
In videos posted online earlier this week, Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla, who is seeking re-election, is shown giving away cash prizes at a campaign event he is hosting for the candidate President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his running mate, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte.
Garcia, who previously served as election attorney for Marcos Jr., said he would not participate in cases involving the late dictator’s son.
As the campaign trail for local candidates begins on Friday, even the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has announced it will target politicians engaged in vote buying and maintaining armed bodyguards.
“The purpose of these policies is to ensure that election campaigns take place in an orderly fashion and are not used to sow violence and terror among the people,” CPP information director Marco Valbuena said in a statement. a statement.
Valbuena said the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the PCP, had “received his orders” and was “ready to firmly implement these policies”.
“Armed escorts are not allowed during the campaign period to prevent them from subjecting people to armed intimidation,” he said, adding that politicians should “strictly adhere to these policies if they wish to avoid armed encounters during their campaign outings”.
NPA units were ordered to apprehend or reprimand politicians caught in the act of vote buying. The money is to be seized by the insurgents, who will ensure it is spent on ‘community benefit programs’
“Vote buying is prohibited in revolutionary areas because it is usually accompanied by intimidation or coercion. It also tends to sow disunity and strife among the people. some receiving more than others,” Valbuena said.
“In the countryside, it takes advantage of the plight of the people, strengthens feudal social relations and perpetuates patronage policies that favor the ruling classes,” he added.
40 to 50 hotspots
But the DILG said the public should not be intimidated by the CPP-NPA and that the police and military would ensure the safe and peaceful conduct of the May elections.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said more government troops would be deployed to “40 to 50 areas” considered election hotspots across the country.
Año also warned all candidates not to pay extortion money, or the so-called CPP-NPA campaign permit fees.
Giving money, even through extortion, to insurgents is an electoral offense that can result in the disqualification of a candidate, the DILG leader said.
This is a violation of Republic Act No. 10168 or the Prevention and Suppression of Terrorist Financing Act of 2012, which is punishable by imprisonment for up to 40 years and a fine of 1 million pula.
In February, the PNP submitted its initial list of areas to be included in the election watch list. But before being published by Comelec, the list must be validated and evaluated by the military.
These areas will be categorized into four color-coded categories – green, yellow, orange and red – in ascending order of security concerns.
Green spaces are known to be generally peaceful for the conduct of elections. Yellow areas, also known as “areas of concern,” have seen poll-related violence in the past two elections.
Orange areas, considered “areas of immediate concern”, have a recorded presence of armed groups, including the NPA, which can disrupt the peaceful conduct of elections.
The red zones correspond to the parameters of the yellow and orange zones. They are considered “areas of serious concern” and will be placed under the control of Comelec.
Comelec plans to review campaign rules
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