Gov. Jonvic Remulla gives away cash prizes for supporters at a campaign event in Dasmariñas, Cavite on March 22, 2022.
Philstar.com / EC Toledo
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of the Interior and Local Government cast doubt on reports of alleged vote-buying as it urged concerned citizens to forward “complete information” in its reports of possible violations.
At a press conference Thursday on safety and security preparations for the upcoming May polls, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año simply insisted that the DILG for its part “already clarified” what forms of ayuda are authorized during the campaign season.
“All the rest, it’s really prohibited, especially the ones coming from local government units. What we’re doing here is that when we get information, we send a notice to explain,” he said in mixed Filipino and English.
Año reiterated that under the tripartite agreement between itself, the Commission on Elections, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, 4Ps subsidy is allowed while fuel subsidy needs clearance from the Comelec.
But has the DILG already investigated these incidents? “Of course, the [role of] investigating and filing cases belongs to the Comelec, but we are actually assisting the Comelec in gathering more information.”
DILG says reports can be doctored
A number of possible incidents have since gone viral over social media.
To recall, Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla was documented handing out cash prizes to supporters attending a sortie of Uniteam bets. He defended this by saying the campaign period for local bets had not yet started while the distribution happened before any candidate of the ticket arrived at the venue.
Earlier, footage of envelopes being distributed to attendees of a Uniteam rally in Nueva Ecija made headlines. The envelopes reportedly contained P500 each.
But Año on Thursday said that he hoped reports from concerned citizens would already include “complete information.”
“Sometimes they only send us pictures, and you’re not sure if they’re photoshopped,” he said. “We have to be very careful also, so it’s important to get the data and facts on the most truthful event. But we are against vote-buying.”
Asked about violations of minimum public health standards at campaign sorties, the Comelec said that barangay health officials continue to monitor incidents such as handshakes, selfies, and the like but added that it has not monitored formal complaints about these.
Año for his part said that the DILG’s observation was that candidates generally comply with campaign regulations concerning health protocols. He said the DILG would continue to monitor areas under Alert Level 2 and those with low vaccine coverage.
No list of election hotspots yet
The interior chief said that the task force would not favor any candidates, saying that if complaints are filed, “we will go after them.”
The DILG secretary also said that the department had already recorded 15 cities and 105 municipalities classified as election areas of concern. The Comelec, however, said it would not yet release the full list. The release has been withheld from the public since end-March.
“Once the PNP submits the [list,] that still undergoes validation on our end,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said at the briefing. “As far as I know our validation isn’t completed yet…we hope that within the week we will be able to release.”
“We tend to use a light hand on this matter because we find it disruptive to the local community if we suddenly go there and declare a hotspot. There is room for validation at this point,” he also said.
— Franco Luna