Pimentel presses Comelec to probe alleged vote-buying

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Tuesday pressed the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to conduct an investigation or a fact-finding probe into the alleged “massive” vote-buying during the 2022 national and local elections.

The lawmaker said there were also speculations that vote-buying activities were engaged in to “give factual basis” for a “computerized-assisted fraud” which he said is a possibility that the Comelec should look at.

In an interview on CNN Philippines, Pimentel said he received information from various parts of the country that vote-buying was prevalent during the elections, with some witnesses showing him photos of money attached on some sample ballots and leaflets.

Although he acknowledged that formalizing a complaint is the “greatest challenge” in reporting these alleged vote-buying incidents, Pimentel said the Comelec, being the body “in charge of maintaining the integrity of the elections should investigate” the matter.

“Magtawag sila ng (call the) witnesses, document as many cases as you can, or if you cannot document, maybe compile the reports so we can see a pattern, so that they can use their imagination on maybe they can propose some bills in the future on how to further…discourage or penalize vote-buying or by Comelec regulations whatever they can think of,” the senator said.

“Pero ang pakiusap ko lang sa Comelec, ako I am convinced there was a massive vote-buying, kahit mag-form sila ng task force to investigate it. Ngayon, if no one is willing to formalize a complaint then okay lang ‘yon, there will be no charges but the problem is being investigated so that patterns, systems can be pinpointed or discovered and then announce to the public na ganito po ang nangyayari para pwede naman in the next elections mag-gwardyahan na ang mga kandidato lalo na ‘yung mga in principle, do not want to engage in vote-buying,” he explained.

(I am convinced that there was a massive vote-buying and my appeal to the Comelec is to form a task force to investigate it. If no one is willing to formalize a complaint then it is okay, there will be no charges but the problem should be investigated so that patterns and the systems can be pinpointed or discovered and then announce to the public that this is the situation on the ground. So in the next elections, the candidates, especially those who do not want to engage in vote-buying, can guard those who are doing such acts.)

The Comelec has already formed the Task Force Kontra Bigay headed by Commissioner Aimee Ferolino.

As of May 7, the poll body said it is investigating 10 cases of alleged vote-buying.

“Actually it goes beyond vote-buying. May allegations pa nga they cannot believe the results that maybe massive vote-buying is engaged in to give factual basis for a computerized-assisted fraud kaya yon ang dapat tingnan natin e. Kung ganon nga ang nangyari,” Pimentel went on.

“It still needs to be investigated. I am not closing my mind to this possibility but I need technical people to assist me but we have to entertain that possibility that massive-buying was engaged in, in order to provide factual basis for votes which may have been assured by the computerized way, the automated way of counting and summing up votes, that is a possibility. I am not stating it as a fact, that’s why I will look for technical people to tell me if that possibility is a remote one or a very feasible, probable one,” he said.

Apart from this, Pimentel cautioned that if the vote-buying incidents are not investigated properly, the elections might be reduced to a “bidding war” between two or more parties.

“It (vote-buying) is not new. Paulit-ulit natin itong naririnig but I think the amount is getting bigger and if all sides or two sides do this, so in effect, we are reducing the elections to a bidding war. That is what I am worried about,” he said.

GMA News Online has sought acting Comelec spokesperson Atty. Rex Laudiangco’s comment on the matter, but he has yet to respond as of posting time.

On the other hand, Pimentel said it is “legal” for the members of major political families to get seats in the Senate.

“Number one, that’s legal walang batas na bawal. Number two, concern natin, basta accurate ang resulta ng eleksyon then that’s the will of the people kahit disagree ka na this should not happen or ‘di competent ‘yung isa, it’s the people who will tell you that this should happen because we believe that the winning candidate is competent,” he said.

(Number one, that’s legal. There is no law that prohibits the election of members of one family in the Senate. Number two, as long as the election results are accurate then that’s the will of the people. Even if you disagree and asser that this should not happen, or the elected person is not competent, it’s the people who will tell you that this should happen because we believe that the winning candidate is competent.)

“Kaya ako ang concern ko lang palagi is… the results must be accurate na ‘yun talaga ang pinili ng taumbayan. That is my number one concern then policy change na lang po ‘yan. An anti-dynasty law but since wala pa therefore, as far as legality is concerned, that is allowed,” he added.

(My only concern is the results must be accurate and that is the will of the people. That is my number one concern, then we should introduce a policy change. An anti-dynasty law should be pushed. But since there is no law on that, therefore, as far as legality is concerned, that is allowed.)

In Comelec’s partial and unofficial tally, former Public Works secretary Mark Villar, Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, former Senators JV Ejercito and Jinggoy Estrada are included in the Magic 12 for Eleksyon 2022.

If proclaimed, Villar will be joining his mother, Senator Cynthia Villar in the Upper Chamber; Cayetano will be joining his sister, Senator Pia Cayetano; and sons of former President Joseph Estrada–JV and Jinggoy will get two seats in the Senate.–AOL, GMA News

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