An official of the Commission on Elections posted the hashtag “#FightVoteBuying” and posed a question about the issue on Twitter.
This came after reports of a presidential bet handing out cash to Batangas locals surfaced last week.
“Alam naman natin na hindi pa kayo saklaw ng election laws sa ngayon…” Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez tweeted on Wednesday.
“Pero kung malakas ka, bakit kailangan mo bumili ng boto? #fightvotebuying,” he added.
Jimenez never dropped any names but some of those who commented claim that it could be presidential aspirant Sen. Manny Pacquiao.
@MannyPacquiao 🎶🎶 para sa yo, ang tweet na ito 🎶🎶
— Jack (@jackastronomer) October 20, 2021
Dapat harap harapan mong sabihin kay @MannyPacquiao yan.
— John Ramos (@xzelrod31) October 20, 2021
Last week, Pacquiao went to Batangas and handed out food packs and P1,000 cash to locals who were affected by the historic Taal Volcano eruption last year.
The retired boxer has been proclaimed as an “adopted son of Batangas” through a resolution in 2019.
Reports note that his visit to the province south of Manila was a fulfillment of the promise he made to Batangueños in November 2020.
“Pacquiao first visited Batangas to distribute relief and extend financial support during the eruption of Taal in January 2020. He followed this up with another relief assistance visit in November 2020 where he promised that he would return after his fight to provide more help,” Pacquiao’s camp said in a statement.
At that time, the boxer-senator was preparing for his bout with Errol Spence Jr. in August 2021, who later on had an eye injury and was replaced with Yordenis Ugas.
Charity or incentive?
Meanwhile, Pacquiao said that cash he gave away to Batangueños is from his own pocket and that it has been his habit to hand out cash since 2002. He first entered public service in 2007 but only gained a seat in 2010.
“Pwede mong masabing vote-buying kung ngayon ko lang ginagawa, pero noon pa ‘yan eh. Habit ko ‘yan eh—bago pa mag-pandemya at nagdesisyon ako tumakbo. Namimigay ako ng ganyan mula pang 2002 hanggang ngayon, patuloy akong namimigay nga ayuda… at pabahay,” he said in response to allegations of vote buying.
“Sa Batangas, pumunta tayo dun para mamigay ng tulong at kumustahin ang ating mga kababayan. Adopted son din ako ng Batangas so bilang adopted son ng Batangas, una ko ring pupuntahan ‘yung mga kababayan ko din doon, Pacquiao added.
The presidential aspirant’s spokesperson said on Tuesday that he will continue to hand out cash aid to Filipinos in need out of charity.
“Sabi niya hindi naman siya titigil na tumulong sa tao dahil lang ayaw ng ibang tao or binibigyan ng ibang kulay,” Nikki de Vega, Pacquiao’s legal counsel, said.
“Ang sabi niya, ‘Attorney, hindi ako titigil gumawa ng kabutihan dahil nangangailangan yung mga tao natin, nagugutom. Nasalanta, tapos titigil ako dahil si DILG binibigyan ng kulay? Ay, hindi,” she added.
Vote buying is when aspiring public officials give out cash to voters especially during the campaign period in exchange for potentially securing their votes instead of letting them decide their preferred bets on their own.
The act is against the Omnibus Election Code and people can be punished with imprisonment, disqualification from public office, deprivation of the right to vote and be charged with fines.
Rules against vote buying and other election-related offenses can only be applicable to political aspirants when the campaign period begins.
It is held from February 8 until May 7, 2022 for the national position and from March 25 to May 7, 2022 to those lying for local posts.
The election day is on May 9, 2022.