FOR Philippine National Police chief, General Dionards Carlos, following the money trail is a sure formula to stop possible vote-buying before and during the May 9 national and local elections.
I fully agree with him when I heard him many times telling his men to ‘follow the money trail,’ the money distribution hubs’ and for sure they won’t go astray. This is true especially in the provinces and even in crowded parts of Metro Manila.
If you see people crowding in a place and jostling with each other just to enter a compound owned by a politician or his trusted men a day before the election or during Election Day itself, it is most like likely that something fishy is going on, with money changing hands.
Another PNP official told me they will also need the cooperation they can get from bank authorities in order to detect huge withdrawals before the election. However, that is easier said than done.
For one, we have Republic Act 1405 which prohibits disclosure of or inquiry into deposits with any banking institution and providing penalty therefor. The law was enacted as its it the policy of the government to give encouragement to the people to deposit their money in banking institutions and to discourage private hoarding so that the same may be properly utilized by banks in authorized loans to assist in the economic development of the country.
The law says that it shall be unlawful for any official or employee of a banking institution to disclose to any person except when the there is a written permission of the depositor or in cases of impeachment, or upon order of a competent court in cases of bribery or dereliction of duty of public officials or in cases where the money deposited or invested is the subject matter of the litigation.
Thus, all deposits of whatever nature with banks or banking institutions in the country are considered as an absolutely confidential nature and may not be examined, inquired or looked into by other persons with a very few exceptions. What is clear here is that offenders of RA 1405 court an imprisonment of not more than 5 years or a fine of not more than P20,000 or both in the discretion of the court.
Gen. Carlos has made it very clear to his men that he wants them to stop possible ‘vote-buying’ by simply following the money trail and monitoring the distribution hubs where cash are being offered to buy votes particularly for local politicians. “Just follow the money trail, the money distribution hubs. Alam niyo na naman yan,” the top cop said.
He also instructed his men to immediately act on reports on alleged vote-buying in their areas. PNP Director for Operations, Major Gen. Val de Leon confirmed that some police officers and men as well as candidates have reported supposed incidents of vote-buying which are being validated.
“We have been receiving several reports from our subordinates, commanders, as well as the candidates themselves and intelligence communities are conducting validation on this,” the 2-star police general said.
Last week, there were intelligence reports that a Luzon provincial governor had a meeting with top police officials in his province in a Metro Manila hotel where the politician reportedly gave huge amount of cash to the officers in attendance. The incident is still being validated by the PNP.
Gen. Carlos has repeatedly stressed that the PNP will remain apolitical and would not succumb to pressures or offers from politicians in exchange for some political favors. I am also calling on the PNP to release information of how many reports on vote-buying did it investigate during the 2016 national and local elections and during the 2019 mid-term polls.
The Omnibus Election Code says that any person found guilty of any election offense including vote-buying shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than 1-year but not more than 6-years and shall not be subject to probation.
If that’s the case, how many vote-buyers and vote-sellers have been arrested, charged and convicted in the past 2 elections. They include persons who were accused of giving, offering or promising money or anything of value to any person in order to induce him/her to vote for or against any candidate or withhold his vote in the election.
The Omnibus Election Code also says that any person found guilty of election offense will be denied the right to vote and prohibited from holding public office, and any political party found guilty of vote-buying will be fined.
Both Gen. Carlos and DILG Secretary Ed Año have vowed to go after any person who will try to undermine the May 9 national and local elections and subvert the will of the people by engaging in cheating and other fraudulent activities.
Sec. Año also maintained that President Duterte has repeatedly told them he won’t endorse any presidential candidate who will lead the country in the next 6 years and just wants to have a peaceful, clean, orderly and honest election.
The DILG chief said that for that matter, his order for the PNP, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the Bureau of Fire Protection is the same. “We will not be partisan, we will protect the sanctity of the votes and we are ready to prosecute anyone who will play politics,” he said.
Gen. Carlos echoed the stand of the DILG chief. “Your PNP will perform professionally. Wala kaming natatanggap na illegal orders at kung meron man, pasok sa isang tenga, labas sa kabilang tenga,” the top cop from PMA ‘Maringal’ Class of 1988 said.