DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Right after casting his vote in the 2019 national elections, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called vote buying an "integral" part of the country's electoral exercise.
Vote buying is an election offense penalized with imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
"The practice of buying votes has been an integral part of an election in the Philippines. 'Yang pagboto, lahat 'yan walang hindi nagbibili ng boto dito, maniwala ka (In voting, not one of them does not buy votes, believe me)," said Duterte on Monday, May 13, during an interview with reporters.
He said what people call "vote buying" are just politicians paying the fare of local leaders who are helping ensure votes for them in a locality. In other occasions, it could be politicians giving food to these leaders.
"It's not because I'm buying the vote of the fellow. It's because I'm giving him the money to go to the precinct to cast his vote. Or you send food to your leaders who are here sacrificing and waiting for the food to eat so they can last until the last vote is counted," said Duterte.
He said it would be hard to pin down vote buying as it comes in "many forms." The practice, he said, "would persist for as long as the Philippines remains to be a poor country."
"Leader ko 'yan, alangan naman patayin ko sa gutom. Kaya mahirap 'yang vote buying, it can take many forms, basta mahirap talaga 'yan," he said.
(That's my leader, I can't let them starve to death. Vote buying, that's hard to pin down, it can take many forms.)
According to the Omnibus Election Code, vote buying happens when a person "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." (READ: Comelec stands by vote-buying crackdown despite Duterte joke)
Malacañang had expressed doubt that Go would be held liable for the allegation. (READ: Watchdogs to Comelec: Be 'proactive' and probe Bong Go fire visits) – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.