Comelec: Distribution of campaign t-shirts, caps for BSKE could be considered vote-buying

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday reminded that distributing anything of value such as t-shirts, fans, caps, and ballers to campaign for the 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) could be considered as vote-buying or vote-selling.

At a public briefing, Comelec spokesperson Rex Laudiangco stressed that the maximum size for posters and tarpaulins is 2×3 feet; 8.5×14 inches for leaflets and fliers; and 3×8 feet for banners and streamers.

“Any other kind of campaign paraphernalia katulad ng t-shirts, ball caps, baller bands, at iba pa… ‘yan po kasi ay maaaring ma-consider, dahil may halaga ito, na isang pamamaraan ng pamimili ng boto,” he said.

(Any other kind of campaign paraphernalia such as t-shirts, ball caps, baller bands, and others, because they have value, that could be considered as a method of buying votes.)

A memorandum earlier released by the poll body also indicated that the “distribution of campaign materials which contain the name, image, logo, brand, insignia, color motif, initials, and other symbol or graphic representation that is capable of being associated with a candidate or party, and is exclusively intended to draw the attention of the public or a segment thereof to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the election of a candidate to a public office are prohibited.”

Laudiangco said that should candidates wish to use campaign materials that were not allowed under the law should ask for a special permit from the Comelec.

“Otherwise, sa sampung araw ng pangagampanya, kung tayo ay mamimigay niyan nang walang pahintulot, maaari itong ma-construe bilang isang pamimili ng boto dahil ang mga bagay na ‘yan ay may halaga po,” he added.

(Otherwise, if those are given without permission within the ten days of the campaign period, it can be construed as vote buying because those things have value.)

Vote-buying and vote-selling are considered as election offenses under Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code.

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

Also, those found guilty will be denied the right to vote and prohibited from holding public office, and any political party found guilty of vote-buying will be fined.

“May idadag pa kaming isa. Itong mga bagay na ‘to kung mapapatunayan natin, maari ring magdulot ng inyong disqualification, kung mareresolba kaagad ang kaso, maaari kayong matanggal sa listahan ng mga kandidato,” Laudiangco said.

(We will add one more. If proven guilty, the candidate may be disqualified or be removed from the list of candidates, if the case is resolved immediately.)

The Comelec earlier created a formal committee tasked to coordinate with law enforcement agencies to address vote-buying and vote-selling in the country.

“Dati po nadinig niyo na ‘yung Task force Kontra Bigay. Nasimulan po ‘yan nung 2019, itinuloy nung 2022. Ito po ay isang ad hoc task force. Ngayon po isang formal committee–Committee on Kontra Bigay na po siya,” Laudiangco said in April.

“So magkakaroon ng dedicated na tao na tututok dito. Mas magiging maayos po ‘yung coordination sa ating law enforcement agencies. So meron na pong specific na opisina ang Comelec na tututok lamang sa vote-buying,” he added.

(We launched Task Force Kontra Bigay in 2019 and we also formed it for the 2022 elections. This is only an ad hoc task force. Right now, it is already a formal committee. It will be called the Committee on Kontra Bigay. So there will be a dedicated Comelec office which will focus on addressing vote-buying.)

Earlier named as commissioner-in-charge for the Committee on Kontra Bigay is Commissioner Ernesto Maceda Jr. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News

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