The Comelec chief also reminded candidates that while “electoral propaganda gadgets” such as lighters, fans, pens, mugs, candies and umbrellas can be distributed during their campaign, giving away “something of value” can be considered vote-buying.
He defined vote-buying as giving away money or anything valuable for the purpose of getting a vote.
Giving away lighters, cigarettes, umbrellas and shirts are already allowed for campaign purposes after Republic Act No. 9006 or the Fair Elections Act repealed a provision in the Omnibus Election Code declaring as unlawful the “purchase, manufacture, request, distribution or acceptance” of electoral propaganda gadgets, Brillantes noted.
The Omnibus Election Code identified propaganda gadgets as pens, lighters, fans, flashlights, athletic goods or materials, wallets, shirts, hands, bandanas, matches and cigarettes.
“These materials are no longer prohibited in the course of the campaign as long as they are freely given as campaign materials and they will reflect as part of the candidates’ expenses,” said Brillantes.
“But if you use that close to the elections, we can classify it as vote-buying,” he said.
He said it has been difficult for the Comelec to go after candidates engaging in vote-buying. “That’s why up to now, no one has been jailed for it… but I will send someone soon, as long as there is evidence,” he said.