Is Comelec still minding vote-buying?

"Everything has to go through a due process," Unso said, adding the City Prosecution Office had been deputized to attend to complaints on election violations such as vote- buying.

Asked if giving privilege cards to voters constituted vote-buying, he gave no categorical reply but merely asked "Where is the card? Was it given to us?"

The official added all they got was "secondary information."

The Comelec admitted, however, that they lack personnel who will focus on apprehending violators of Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code.

"Will the Comelec wait for complaints to come to its office before acting against vote-buying?" a reporter asked.

Unso replied Comelec does not have a monopoly of the elections for it is only one of many agencies involved.

During the I-speak press conference Thursday, a reporter showed a privilege card distributed to voters in Davao City by a party-list group bearing a candidate's signature and his campaign manager. The card supposedly entitles its holders to free medical services, among other benefits.

Unso said that while Comelec as a quasi-judicial body can hear a case against a violator motu propio, it needs witnesses.

"We are equipped with all the laws (against vote buying), but we are slaves to due process. We have to go through the process," he explained.

He said due process is both a boon and a bane but that “this is also a form of protection for all of us.”

The public is to blame for not lodging formal complaints against vote-buying, he added.

Section 261 (a) of the Omnibus Election Code states that a person commits vote-buying if he/she “gives, offers or promises money or anything of value, gives or promises any office or employment, franchise or grant, public or private or makes of offers to make an expenditure, directly or indirectly, or cause an expenditure to be made to any person, association, corporation, entity or community in order to induce anyone or the public in general to vote for or against any candidate or withhold his vote in the election, or to vote for or against any aspirant for the nomination or choice of a candidate in a convention or similar selection process of a political party.' (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

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