Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bishops urge Comelec to probe Villar’s ‘vote-buying’

02/28/2010 | 04:39 PM

Original Story:

Two Catholic bishops urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Sunday to investigate presidential aspirant Senator Manuel Villar Jr. for alleged vote-buying.

In separate interviews, Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez and Catarman Bishop Emmanuel Trance told Veritas radio candidates in the May 10 elections should not manipulate the poor.

"Do not use anyone, especially the poor and the children, for personal interest," Gutierrez said of Villar’s public display of generosity last week.

A few children who came to greet Villar went home P20 richer when he handed them the bills during his sorties in Batangas City and Lipa City.

Villar said he had not intended to hand out money, but he felt sorry for the children. (See: Villar gives P20 bills to kids in Batangas)

Villar later defended his actions, saying the money was meant to buy the children sweet potato, not votes. (See: Villar: P20 was meant to buy sweet potato, not votes)

Gutierrez and Trance said the Comelec should look into the matter.

"When you help it should be faith-based and love-driven. [Candidates] should present their platform rather than teach others to cheat," Gutierrez said.

Trance, for his part, noted that while he did not wish to pass judgment on the issue, candidates should be guided by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) pastoral statement for the May polls.

"We are asking all the candidates to start serving our people now in the campaign period by being honest and sincere in educating our people on the real situation of the country and not to campaign to manipulate the perceptions of the people by winning by all means and all costs whether moral or immoral," he said.

Trance also said it is not just the Comelec's but also the people's responsibility to look into the alleged vote-buying by Villar.

Aside from defending the giving away of P20 bills, Villar also clarified that the distribution of scholarship certificates during a Nacionalista Party sortie in Pasay City on Thursday was merely ceremonial since these had been given earlier to the beneficiaries.

Villar said those who have more in life should give something to the less fortunate.

Told that giving out cash to the public during the campaign period is prohibited, Villar agreed, but insisted that this was not the same as allowing the children to eat sweet potato.

Sweet potato is associated with poverty because it is often substituted for staple food during tight times. Villar, like most other candidates, claims to be pro-poor.

Under Article 12, Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code, vote-buying is defined as the act of giving, offering or promising money or anything of value, including promises of “employment, franchise or grant, public or private" in order to influence a voter’s electoral preferences." — NPA, GMANews.TV

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