THE Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the immediate prosecution of election-related offenses under the poll body’s Kontra Bigay program for the 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE), which will be held on October 30.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said the DOJ has agreed to work hand-in-hand with the Comelec to address the long-standing problem of vote buying and vote selling during elections.
“By combining the investigatory prowess of the Comelec and the prosecutorial power of the DOJ we aim to ensure those who commit election offenses face the full force of the law,” Remulla said.
The DOJ chief assured that prosecutors would be made available on the ground starting the BSKE election period to handle election-related complaints.
He added that legal assistance desks will be set up to handle election violations in various parts of the country but reminded prosecutors to enhance its cooperation and coordination with law enforcers on the matter.
For his part, Comelec chairman George Garcia said the creation of the Committee against Kontra Bigay (CKB) instead of a mere task force institutionalizes the resolve of the poll body together with other concerned government agencies to address vote buying and vote selling activities during elections.
Garcia said having the National Prosecution Service (NPS) of the DOJ on the Comelec side would not only discourage vote buying and selling activities, but would also send a message to election offenders that the government is very serious in filing charges against them once they are caught.
“If the prosecutorial arm of the government is on our side, we can ensure—not only to scare—we can ensure that we will strictly monitor the campaign on this new cancer against democracy,” Garcia said.
The Comelec announced the creation of the CKB last April, whose main task is to coordinate with law enforcement agencies to prevent vote buying and vote selling during elections.
Garcia said the Comelec has so far issued show-cause orders against at least 2,000 individuals for alleged premature campaigning.
He said out of this number, the poll body is eyeing to file 60 disqualification cases soon based on its initial assessment.
Garcia also warned that vote buying and selling usually take place during the campaign period or 10 days before and on the actual day of the election.
In Mindanao, the Bangsamoro government assured barangay candidates and voters that it would always uphold its status as a nonpartisan entity in next month’s barangay elections, and to help calm down the bloody political heat that has built up since a few months ago.
Interior and Local Government Minister Atty. Naguib Sinarimbo said Chief Minister Ahod B. Ebrahim has issued a public statement about the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as nonpartisan.
This was intended to assure Bangsamoro voters that the autonomous government “is emphasizing the right to suffrage of the Bangsamoro citizens” and ensuring “an upright and violence-free BSKE this coming October 30.”
With Manuel T. Cayon