Revisiting the Omnibus Election Code

Revisiting the Omnibus Election Code

Caricature courtesy of Cayman News Service

As we race towards the November 15 legend for the deadline when politicians who have filed their certificates of candidacy in the first week of October are allowed to replace or be replaced or substitute or be substituted, we find yet another cause for hyperemesis where most politicians are rather good at.

Sometime back we discussed Article IX, Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code, whose provision is precise on substitution or replacement.

The Section states: “Candidates in case of death, disqualification or withdrawal of another. – If after the last day for the filing of certificates of candidacy, an official candidate of a registered or accredited political party dies, withdraws or is disqualified for any cause, only a person belonging to, and certified by, the same political party may file a certificate of candidacy to replace the candidate who died, withdrew or was disqualified.

“The substitute candidate nominated by the political party concerned may file his certificate of candidacy for the office affected in accordance with the preceding sections not later than mid-day of the day of the election.

“If the death, withdrawal or disqualification should occur between the day before the election and mid-day of election day, said certificate may be filed with any board of election inspectors in the political subdivision where he is a candidate, or, in the case of candidates to be voted for by the entire electorate of the country, with the Commission.” (Sec. 28, 1978 EC)

This is the giving out of wads to people in the guise of helping them during the pandemic when the election campaign period is still more than 90 days away and therefore there would be no violation of the election law – at least in their view they believe would be taken hook, line, and sinker by the recipients of their humanity and compassion.

They argue that they have not perpetrated vote buying, an election offense, since the campaign period is still far off the horizon – in February 2022.

This has been prompted by Sen. Manny Pacquiao, a presidential aspirant, recently giving out — and covered by the different media — P1k and goodies each to people in Batangas and Benguet. The Mindanao solon argued when that activity was criticized that he had been doing that in Mindanao even years before.
The situation was not helped any when another presidential aspirant, the incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo, running as an independent and not under the banner of the opposition Liberal Party where she is chairperson, remarked in an interview by Rappler that the voters should accept the money but vote according to their conscience, seen by some as an obvious euphemism to vote for another candidate, not the giver.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez issued a statement this week that vote-buying, a most misunderstood and therefore committed most often, is an election offense regardless of financial situation or noble intentions.

That was a clear slap on Robredo who quickly tried to clarify her comment carried by the mainstream media and the social media, adding she never condoned it and was aware of the law and that her remark was lifted out of context and that she was only pointing out realities on the ground.

In a tweet, Jimenez said he disagreed with “the notion of taking the money and voting according to your conscience.”

Jimenez maintained vote-buying was an election offense and should not be even suggested to the voters.

What happened? During a press conference in Naga City, Robredo said her statement on vote-buying was reposted in social media without context.

Earlier, Robredo said that buying votes was wrong, but said “I always tell people, accept it. I always say accept it because that is from us anyway. Public funds are used to buy votes.”

Robredo said that while vote-buying was illegal, it was hard to nab the perpetrators because it was not done in public, and nowadays could even be done through electronic transfers.

She also pointed out that candidates who were buying votes would not use their own money to do so.

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

Robredo said: “Vote buying is wrong, however, the practice is very rampant over the years even here. What’s frustrating is that the regulations against vote-buying are not being implemented properly.”

“I am aware of the law. We are not happy that the policy against it is not being enforced properly. We should be open to the realities on the ground. If regulations are not properly enforced then what should we do?” she added.
Another presidential aspirant, Senator Panfilo Lacson, said the public would suffer in the long run if they would engage in vote-buying or vote-selling

Lacson’s spokesman Ashley Acedillo quoted Lacson as saying in a statement, “If voters think that accepting money or selling their votes is the only way to immediately benefit from a politician, they should be aware that they would suffer for a longer period in return.”

Next, we will try to revisit the provisions of the Omnibus Election Code on vote-buying. (ai/mtvn)

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