The Commission on Elections on Monday warned candidates in the local elections not to engage in vote-buying activities as the official campaign period begins, or the poll body would run after them.
Without mentioning any name, Comelec Commissioner George Erwin Garcia said the poll body has been monitoring the activities of local candidates even before their campaign period formally started last March 25.
Prior to the start of the official campaign period, election aspirants are not considered candidates so election offenses, including vote buying, don't apply to them yet, according to the Supreme Court ruling on Penera vs. Comelec.
"Pero tapos na ang Penera vs. Comelec. Simula nitong March 25, kayo ay considered kandidato na at hahabulin namin kayo," Garcia said during the Laging Handa public briefing.
The Comelec will launch the inter-agency Task Force Kontra Bigay on Wednesday which will look into alleged incidents of vote buying with or without a formal complaint.
The poll body earlier said it needed a proper complaint before acting on the reported distribution of cash gifts after a campaign rally of presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos in Nueva Ecija.
"Kapag may vote buying, hindi nagre-reflect yung tunay na sentimiyento ng ating mga kababayan.... Hindi natin babalewalain yung mga akusasyon, alegasyon patungkol sa vote buying," Garcia said.
Garcia also encouraged ordinary Filipinos who have credible and solid proof of vote buying activities to report it to the Comelec.
"Doon sa magkakalaban, maganda ang mag-monitor kayo. Maganda kayo mismo ang titingin, papansin doon sa mga kalaban niyo sa position kung sila ay nagvi-violate, isumbong niyo sa amin at yan ay aaksyunan namin," he added.
The Omnibus Election Code prohibits any person from giving, offering, or promising money or anything of value to induce another person or the public in general to vote for or against a candidate.
Anyone found guilty of committing this election offense will be penalized with a jail sentence of up to six years, disqualification from holding public office, and deprivation of the right to vote.