Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. on Wednesday said the poll body will be sending a letter to senatorial candidate Ernesto Maceda asking him to explain the raffle he held during the Kabalikat ng Bayan sa Kaunlaran (Kabaka) meeting in Manila last Tuesday.
A video taken by GMA News showed Maceda, together with re-electionist Rep. Amado Bagatsing and candidate for councilor Ali Atienza, announcing a raffle to the members of Kabaka with a pile of P500 bills on the table.
Maceda called out names but did not give the cash. He also announced his number on the May election ballot.
The video was shown to Brillantes and lawyer Esmeralda Ladra, Comelec law department head.
“Merong statement na parang may nagra-raffle at may perang involved, therefore we don’t really know kung ano ang circumstances, we have to investigate him, just to check kung anong nangyari. So to be fair to the candidate, we have to write him a letter so he can explain,” said Brillantes.
He said he will make a conclusion and determine what course of action to be taken once he gets Maceda’s explanation.
“Initially, there appears to be something wrong, it is a ground for us to investigate further the details. We always [give] a chance to the candidate because the penalty is serious, he could get disqualified as a candidate for senator, he can even be prosecuted criminally,” he said.
As of this posting, GMA News Online was still trying to reach Maceda for his comment.
On the other hand, Brillantes said Maceda’s case is similar to that of senatorial candidate Jamby Madrigal who held an online contest and offered an iPad as prize.
He also reiterated his call for candidates to refrain from gimmicks as these might lead them to trouble.
“’Wag na sana silang gumagawa ng gimmick. Wag na silang magpakita ng pera; ‘wag na silang mag-announce ng raffle kasi hindi naman dapat. Kaya dumadami ang problema namin dahil sa andaming naiisip na gimmick ng mga kandidato,” he said.
Asked if other people seen on the video, such as those who ‘won’ the raffle, could also be held liable for vote selling, Brillantes said he does not want them indicted.
“Paano ka makakapag prove ng vote buying if you will also prosecute the vote seller. You cannot prove vote buying unless you produce the vote seller so if you will also prosecute him, who will come out? Kaya nga walang nako-convict on vote buying e,” he said.
On Madrigal’s case, Ladra said they have yet to receive a reply. The Comelec sent the notice Monday; the deadline would be on Thursday.
“Tignan natin baka naman mag-file na mamaya or baka bukas,” she added.
Ladra said Madrigal could be held liable for Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code which defines vote-buying as “any person who gives, offers or promises money or anything of value, gives or promises any office or employment, franchise or grant, public or private, or makes or offers to make an expenditure, directly or indirectly, or cause an expenditure to be made to any person, association, corporation, entity, or community in order to induce anyone or the public in general to vote for or against any candidate or withhold his vote in the election, or to vote for or against any aspirant for the nomination or choice of a candidate in a convention or similar selection process of a political party.”
Vote-selling, meanwhile, is “any person, association, corporation, group or community who solicits or receives, directly or indirectly, any expenditure or promise of any office or employment, public or private, for any of the foregoing considerations.”
She could also be in violation of Section 97 of the Omnibus Election Code, which states: “it shall be unlawful for any person to hold dances, lotteries, cockfights, games, boxing bouts, bingo, beauty contests, entertainments, or cinematographic, theatrical or other performances for the purpose of raising funds for an election campaign or for the support of any candidate from the commencement of the election period up to and including election day.”
It also states that it shall be unlawful “for any person or organization, whether civic or religious, directly or indirectly, to solicit and/or accept from any candidate for public office, or from his campaign manager, agent or representative, or any person acting in their behalf, any gift, food, transportation, contribution or donation in cash or in kind from the commencement of the election period up to and including election day.”
Any person found guilty of any election offense shall be punished with imprisonment from one to six years and shall not be subject to probation, under Section 264 of the Omnibus Election Code.
“In addition, the guilty party shall be sentenced to suffer disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage,” the provision further states. — LBG, GMA News