Namfrel official pushes reward for vote-buying whistleblowers

Philippine Tribune
Philippine Tribune

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – A fair elections advocate in this city has urged the government to create a program that would incentivize witnesses to testify against the undying issue of vote-buying in the country during elections.

Nestor Banuag Jr., chairperson of the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel)-Cagayan de Oro-Misamis Oriental chapter, said aside from their safety, one of the reasons why people do not testify against vote-buying is the lack of incentives.

“What would I get if I became a witness? So, you should give them a reward that maybe exceeds how much he or she receives,” Banuag said on Tuesday, Oct. 31, stressing that the government should also strengthen its witness protection program.

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A MEMBER of the electoral board tallies votes in the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE) at West City Central School in Barangay Carmen, Cagayan de Oro City on October 30. (Franck Dick Rosete)

If the government will consider the idea, he said the incentivization should be handled by an independent agency that cannot be bribed or influenced.

Focusing on the receiving voter, Banuag said, would be an efficient way to be able to identify and give sanctions to the people behind the said illegal act.

He said his idea, if the government adopts it, might be hard to immediately implement in the country, but the government can maybe execute it in selected areas where vote-buying is extensive.

In this city prior to the barangay elections on October 30, Carmen, one of the biggest villages here, became controversial on social media because of the substantial amount allegedly given to voters that would total P6,000 each. This was also observed by Namfrel as netizens posted the money they allegedly received online with the pictures and names of certain candidates.

Banuag said there were gaps in the legal process in the country in empowering the voters to be involved in fighting vote-buying and vote-selling. “If those are available and they will be given assurances, who is now the giver? Who is now the source that would engage (in vote-buying)? Now, it is easy because they know that the voters won’t talk,” he said.

Banuag thanked government agencies behind the Kontra Bigay committee, which was created under Commission on Elections Resolution No. 10946 to stop vote-buying and vote-selling, but said he has been looking for the missing pieces to improve the campaign.

He said Namfel no longer questions the existence of vote-buying and vote-selling, considering the various factors but added they won’t stop looking for possible solutions, as they remain positive about addressing the issue to achieve the true meaning of democracy.

The Police Regional Office-10 said the BSKE in Northern Mindanao was generally peaceful. There were no major incidents reported aside from the physical injury cases, which were mostly pacified in Lanao del Norte.

According to the Omnibus Election Code, vote-buying refers to an act of giving, offering, and promising money or anything of value, any office positions or employment, grant from both public and private, to make a direct and indirect expenditure or cause an expenditure to be made to any person, association, corporation, entity, or community.

This is to persuade someone or the public in general to cast a vote for or against a candidate or withhold his vote in the election.

Apart from other penalties under existing laws, vote-buying and vote-selling are deemed election offenses and are punishable by imprisonment for a minimum of one year and a maximum of six years.

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