Bohol mayor may face charges over relief standoff-A A +A
Thursday, October 24, 2013
EVEN as President Aquino defended Maribojoc, Bohol Mayor Leoncio Evasco Jr., the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has threatened to file charges against the local chief executive if he continues to meddle in the relief efforts to earthquake victims.
In an interview, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said they can file a "conspiracy to vote buying" case against Evasco if he continues to insist on forcing the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to turnover relief goods to the local government.
"Pwede pa namin siya i-charge of conspiracy in vote-buying. Kung ibibigay niya doon sa mga kandidato sa barangay, kasama siya sa vote-buying, kasama pa siya sa violation ng distribution ng relief," said Brillantes.
He said the commission even has the capability to exclude Evasco in the relief operations, which is now set to be supervised by the PRC after the Comelec gave authorization to the agency.
The Omnibus Election Code provides that in cases of calamities or disasters, releases of funds for relief efforts shall be turned over to, and administered and disbursed by the PRC.
"We say, under the Omnibus Election Code, ang Red Cross na ang magsu-supervise, but through the existing system. So parang magsasama na ngayon ang Red Cross at government. Kapag ipipilit niya (Evasco) yun, pati siya tatanggalin na namin sa distribution process, which Red Cross can technically do being the overall supervisor," said Brillantes.
Vote-buying is defined as "giving, offering or promising money or anything of value directly or indirectly, in order to induce anyone or the public in general to vote for or against any candidate."
It carries a penalty of one to six years imprisonment, disqualification from holding public office, and removal of right to vote.
On Wednesday, reports came out that Red Cross volunteers are being driven away by Evasco from providing relief efforts to victims of the earthquake, claiming that the PRC volunteers had refused to turn over to him the relief goods.
On Thursday, Aquino defended Evasco, saying proper coordination with the government is needed to ensure that no relief goods are being put to waste.
What is certain, though, according to Brillantes, is that candidates for barangay elections are prohibited from participating in the relief efforts.
"Kapag sila nag-distribute, we will consider that as vote-buying on the part of the candidates. Pwede namin sila i-disqualify kasi pag namimigay ka ng goods, namimili ka ng boto," said the poll chief.
As provided in Comelec Resolution 9804, poll officials and employees in Bohol, as well as the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), are mandated to monitor compliance to the said prohibition.
The poll body's resolution said all those that already filed their Certificates of Candidacy (COCs) from October 11 to 17 shall already be considered as "candidates" despite the postponement of the conduct of elections in the province to November 25.
Still, the Comelec en banc had added two more days in the period of filing of COCs in Bohol set on October 28 and 29.
The new election period in the province of Bohol is set from October 26 to December 10 while the campaign period will be from November 15 to 23. (HDT/Sunnex)