Published 9 May 2022, The Daily Tribune
The right of suffrage, more commonly known as the right to vote, is one of the most cherished rights in a free and democratic country. Article V, Sec. 1 of the 1987 Constitution provides that suffrage may be exercised by all citizens of the Philippines not otherwise disqualified by law, who are at least eighteen years of age, and upon meeting residence requirements. No literacy, property, or other substantive requirement shall be imposed on the exercise of suffrage.
In this sense, the right to vote is a great equalizer and a potent weapon for change. Hence, we find it apt to provide some last-minute reminders to ensure that our right to vote is exercised wisely and election offenses are guarded against.
First and foremost is the issue of secrecy of ballots. The Constitution states that the Congress shall provide a system for securing the secrecy and sanctity of the ballot. Under the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), it is prohibited for anyone to discover by any means the contents of the ballot of a voter who is preparing to vote or has just voted. It is prohibited to take a photo of, to tamper with, alter or make erasures on, official ballot.
The following, among others, are also prohibited and those committing them are guilty of an election offense:
Note that the carrying of firearms outside residence or place of business is prohibited during the election period. Only regular members of the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other law enforcement agencies duly deputized in writing by COMELEC to carry firearms during the election period. They must be in uniform, fully identifiable, and in active duty while bearing such firearms.
Last but not least is a reminder not to engage in vote-buying and vote-selling which are considered as election offenses. Vote-buying is the act of giving, offering or promising money or anything of value to vote for or against any candidate or withhold his vote in the election. Vote-selling is committed by one who solicits or receives the foregoing for the same purpose.
Any person found guilty of any election offense may be imprisonment from one to six years and shall not be subject to probation, apart from disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage. Anyone witnessing such election offenses may report the closest office of the Philippine National Police (PNP), or directly to your local Comelec office through its local Citizen Complaint Center, or via Comelec online through the email email@example.com.
Vote wisely, and protect your vote. The country’s future depends on it.