By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan. PNA
MANILA — The Philippine National Police (PNP) seized a total of PHP12.208 million in cash during operations against vote-buying across the country.
Based on the report from January 13 to May 14, authorities also arrested 356 persons in 225 reported vote-buying incidents nationwide.
The PNP said 85 suspects have been identified but they remain at large while eight minors have been “rescued” during the police operations.
The highest number of arrests were made in Metro Manila with 136 in nine reported incidents yielding PHP541,000 in total.
Of the total amount, Caraga Region has accounted for almost PHP8 million from 10 people apprehended, followed by Northern Mindanao with PHP1.12 million from 17 people arrested and Ilocos Region where 24 suspects yielded PHP561,000.
PNP spokesperson Col. Bernard Banac said the confiscated money have been submitted to prosecutors as evidence for criminal complaints filed against the suspects.
PNP chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde on Tuesday assured that they will further strengthen their capability to address vote-buying and selling activities in the next elections.
Albayalde said unlike the past years, the PNP now is more pro-active in apprehending personalities involved in vote-buying.
Albayalde admitted that there were reports of “massive” vote-buying during the May 13, 2019 elections.
“There are several factors on vote buying. First, our elections are automated. Seemingly, the Comelec (Commission on Elections) said the VCMs (vote counting machines) are incorruptible so the tendency is for the candidates to go directly to the voters. Another is that we haven’t seen any candidate getting suspended or investigated for alleged vote buying,” he said.
The PNP chief, however, admitted that allegations of vote-buying are hard to prove.
For his part, DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año lauded the Task Force Kontra Bigay composed of the Comelec, DILG, PNP, and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for their concerted effort to confront head-on the menace of vote-buying in our country.
He said the arrest of hundreds of perpetrators is an important step in reducing if not eradicating this clear affront to our democracy.
“I congratulate the Comelec for its decisive leadership and we look forward to working with them in future elections in the strict implementation of our election laws,” he noted.
Año said that even as voting has concluded he strongly urged the public to continue to report cases of vote-buying by filling up the standard complaint form and submitting it, together with other pieces of evidence, to the nearest Comelec, PNP, or NBI office.
“The government needs your help to strengthen our democracy. To stop the menace of vote buying, the vigilance of the public is key,” he said. (PNA)