Vote buying is an election offense regardless of financial situation or noble intentions, a Commission on Elections official said, apparently in response to Vice President Leni Robredo’s remark to accept the money but make a principled vote.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said he disagreed with "the notion of taking the money and voting according to your conscience."
He maintained vote buying was an election offense and should not be even suggested to voters.
But Robredo clarified her remark, saying she never condoned vote buying and that she was just pointing out realities on the ground.
Robredo, running as an independent for the 2022 national elections, said Tuesday: “I always tell people, accept it. I always say accept it because that is from us anyway. Public funds are used to buy votes.”
The Vice President, however, said her statement on vote buying was reposted on social media without context.
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.
“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," Robredo said.
"I am aware of the law. We are not happy that the policy against it is not being enforced properly. We should be open on 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 said: “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.”
The vote buying issue was also raised against another presidential candidate, Senator Manny Pacquiao after he admitted that he distributed P1,000 cash aid during his recent visits in Batangas and Benguet.
Labor leader Leody de Guzman said the political and electoral systems must be reformed to fight vote buying.
"The law prohibits the direct vote buying of the candidates. ‘Indirect vote buying’ can be considered in projects, aid, and work," he said in a Twitter post.
"Direct and indirect vote buying will continue to happen as long as the masses are hungry and have no choice but to choose rich political aspirants or from political dynasties," De Guzman added.