FILE a case against former special assistant to the President and now administration's senatorial bet Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go if his distribution of cash assistance to fire victims is an election offense, Malacañang told the public on Tuesday, March 19.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo defended Go for giving cash aid to victims of fire incidents during the campaign period, saying the money distributed was a mere "donation" and could not be considered a practice of vote buying.
"Mukhang iba ang situation dito kay Bong Go sapagkat (Bong Go's situation is different because) these are donations and they are fire victims. Pangalawa (Second), I read also na (that) it was not even him who gave the so-called cash donations," he said.
"But anyway, if they feel that he has violated, oh eh di magfile para magkaalaman diba? We'll let the Comelec (Commission on Elections) decide," Panelo added.
Poll watchdogs Kontra Daya and National Citizens Movement for Free Elections have called on Comelec to look into reports that Go distributed cash assistance to fire victims during campaign period.
Their plea came after the senatorial aspirant reportedly visited fire-stricken South Cembo village in Makati City on March 5. During his visit to Makati fire victims, Go's staff reportedly distributed P2,000 each to the affected families.
Under Article 22, Section 261(a)(1) of the Omnibus Election Code, any person running for office is prohibited to engage in vote buying.
The Omnibus Election Code defines vote buying as an act of "directly or indirectly" giving, offering, or promising "money or anything of value," any "office or employment, franchise or grant, public or private," or "an expenditure," in order to induce anyone "to vote for or against any aspirant."
Panelo, however, was convinced that it would be difficult for critics to prove that Go has committed an election offense.
"I look at the provisions, baka mahirapan kasi (it will be difficult for them because) what it says there is that 'will induce the voter to be influenced by what you gave,'" the Palace official said.
"Mahirapan sila doon (It will be difficult for them)... Bong Go is a responsible person and he has his own, I supposed, lawyers surrounding him. And I don't think Bong Go will be violating any election offense," he added. (SunStar Philippines)