It's final: Jail awaits voters with 'frivolous' complaints
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – After voting on the issue again, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) decided to still consider it an election offense to make "frivolous" complaints over voting receipts.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista confirmed on Wednesday, April 27, that the Comelec did a "re-voting" on its rule against frivolous objections.
In Comelec Resolution 10088 containing the amended rules for election inspectors, the Comelec said, "The filing of frivolous objections shall constitute an election offense punishable under the Omnibus Election Code."
This is for cases when voters make frivolous claims that their voting receipts show a set of votes different from the one on their ballot.
The Comelec says it is not prohibiting all kinds of complaints, only "frivolous" ones. The poll body prescribes a proper way of filing these complaints, which is to have these noted by election inspectors in their minutes.
The penalty for election offenses is stated in the Omnibus Election Code.
The Omnibus Election Code says any person found guilty of an election offense "shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than 6 years, and shall not be subject to probation."
The Comelec's amended rules for election inspectors, however, did not contain the specific provision of the Omnibus Election Code that says filing frivolous objections is an election offense.
Because of this, critics said the rule is baseless under the law.
Comelec: It's backed by law
On Wednesday, Bautista said the Comelec has now found a provision in the Omnibus Election Code that supports the rule against frivolous objections.
"Doon naman sa frivolous complaints, meron kaming nahanap sa Omnibus Election Code, I think Section 11," Bautista said in a news conference.
(On the frivolous complaints, we found something in the Omnibus Election Code, I think Section 11.)
Section 261 (z) (11) of the Omnibus Election Code says an election offense is committed by "any person who, for the purpose of disrupting or obstructing the election process or causing confusion among the voters, propagates false and alarming reports or information or transmits or circulates false orders, directives, or messages regarding any matter relating to the printing of official ballots, the postponement of the election, the transfer of polling place, or the general conduct of the election."
Two Comelec commissioners, a former Comelec commissioner, and election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) earlier opposed the rule on frivolous complaints.
Comelec Commissioners Christian Lim and Sheriff Abas said the rule has no legal basis.
Lim said the filing of a frivolous objections is an "impossible crime." He said implementing the rule on this could even be "an impeachable offense."
While approving the rule on frivolous complaints, the Comelec also affirmed its directive to give voters replacement ballots if it's not their fault that vote-counting machines rejected their original ballots.
The Comelec also drew flak for this rule, with critics pointing out that the poll body might run out of ballots. The Comelec addressed the criticism by limiting replacement ballots to one per voter, and by specifying the instances when one can get a replacement ballot. – Rappler.com
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