A House panel has approved a 20 year-jail time on top of exorbitant fine and harsh penalties for military and election officers proven guilty of committing election offenses.
This developed after the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms chaired Rep. Frednil Castro of Capiz okayed House Bill 1089 or Identifying Other Persons Criminally Liable for Election Offenses and Increasing Penalties for Election-related Offenses authored by Reps. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro and Maximo Rodriguez of Abante Mindanao.
Under House Bill 1089, an officer or employee of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) or any officer, employee or member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, or any other police force, Special Forces, Home Defense Forces, Barangay Self-Defense Units and all other paramilitary units that exist found guilty of any election offense will be punished by the maximum penalty thereof.
Under the Omnibus Election Code, the list of election offenses include: vote-buying, vote-selling, conspiracy to bribe voters, wagering upon result of election, coercion of subordinates, threats, intimidation, terrorism, use of fraudulent device or other forms of coercion, coercion of election officials and employees, exercising undue influence, unlawful electioneering, use of public funds, money deposited in trust, equipment, facilities owned or controlled by the government for an election campaign, the use of deadly weapons, carrying firearms outside residence or place of business, using armored land, water or air craft, among others.
House Bill 1089 sets the maximum jail time at 20 years without probation. Likewise, the guilty party will be meted perpetual disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of right to suffrage.
Any political party or aggrupation organized for political purpose to which the guilty party is a member, in addition, will be sentenced to pay a fine of P500,000 as part of the civil liability in connection with the election offense.
“The political exercise of suffrage is a manifestation of our sovereign act of choosing a representative for the purpose of delegating powers, functions and duties related to governance. As such, violations of any character that destroy the sanctity of this act of sovereignty must be dealt with the full force of the law,” The Rodriguez brothers said in their explanatory note.
The P500,000 fine is way above the current penalty of a measly P10,000.
“Current penalties provided for by our election laws are inadequate in deterring violators from committing acts that undermine sovereign will,” they added.
Further, House Bill 1089 put high premium on keeping those guilty of election offenses behind bars.
A lifetime imprisonment awaits the director of prisons, provincial warden, keeper of the jail or other persons required by law to keep the prisoner in their custody, in the event that a fugitive guilty of an election offense commit an act of intimidation, terrorism or any interference in the election.
The same fugitive will likewise be sentenced to lifetime imprisonment.
The measure Identifying Other Persons Criminally Liable for Election Offenses and Increasing Penalties for Election-related Offenses was approved by the House of Representatives on third reading last Congress but was not acted upon by the Senate. LLANESCA T. PANTI