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Sereno asks Comelec: How free were midterm polls from vote buying?

MANILA, Philippines — Former Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno on Sunday called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to explain different election-related complaints, particularly the alleged cases of vote-buying in the country during the polling season.

Noting that the Comelec is mandated to ensure “free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections”, Sereno said that the Comelec should have challenged statements persuading people to accept vote buying as “normal” during elections.

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“The Filipino people, through the Constitution, have mandated the Comelec to ensure ‘free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections.’ Yet how free were the last elections from vote buying? The Comelec should have seen to it that these elections were above suspicion,” Sereno said in a statement.

“Statements that sought to persuade the people to accept vote buying as normal should have been directly challenged by the Comelec. Also, if it is to be the vanguard of electoral integrity, then the Comelec should have set aright any statement diminishing honesty as an electoral qualification and instead emphasized the high calling to public office,” she added.

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Sereno pointed out that successful candidates, who came from lower socio-economic classes thus not having the resources to resort to vote buying, are proof that a clean election is possible.

“That the people have elected into local office some candidates without the money to buy votes, candidates from lower economic sectors, and young candidates who had no asset other than their idealism means that the Filipinos are rejecting the idea that we can never have clean election,” Sereno said.

Sereno also called for the Comelec to investigate and provide answers regarding the conduct of the elections.

“There are too many complaints, too many disconnects. The people see the wide gap between the standards that should have been observed, and what actually happened, and they are expecting the Comelec to make itself accountable,” Sereno said.

The former Chief Justice also raised three major points that the Comelec must address, including the commission’s “fairness and impartiality”, the “fool-proof” automated elections,  and distribution of fake news amid the election season.

“It is humbly suggested that the Comelec forthwith issue a resolution embodying legally actionable steps and a timeline to address these questions, to allay our people’s fears and assure them that electoral messes can be remedied. Ideally, this resolution should come forth before the national canvass ends and the putative winners proclaimed,” Sereno said. (Editor: Julie Espinosa)

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