By ABS-CBN News
MANILA - The Commission on Elections on Thursday warned about the possibility of electronic vote buying in the 2022 general elections as the COVID-19 pandemic made cashless transactions more widespread.
This, after Philippine National Police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar warned that political candidates may try to take advantage of the growth in the use of digital platforms and e-wallets in the country to buy votes.
"Not to sound alarmist, but I think the general is correct. We've been saying that as much for the longest time. Ever since people started using e-wallets, we've seen that potential," the poll body's spokesperson James Jimenez told ANC's "Rundown".
He added, "In fact, especially with the onset of the pandemic, we've seen that majority of transactions have actually moved into that regime, into online transactions. Obviously, that's keeping us up late at night."
Filipino voters will choose a president and vice president, alongside more than 300 lawmakers and thousands of local government officials, in polls due to be held on May 9, 2022.
In the Philippines, elections are frequently marred by vote buying, as many politicians woo people with offers of cash, food and other giveaways in exchange for votes.
Jimenez said vote buying via electronic money transfer services cannot be solved by Comelec and PNP alone.
"Addressing this issue isn't something that anyone of our agencies can actually do by itself. It will have to be a common effort, I think, by all agencies tasked with enforcing with this issue," he said.
With the 2022 elections less than a year away, the poll body launched a mobile app in order to fast-track the registration process. The app can be accessed without an internet connection, but only currently for Android users.
To date, Jimenez said the mobile app had received more than 100,0000 downloads.
In light of the 2016 hacking incident, Comelec assured the public that using the app would be "very safe".
"All it really does is it takes your data and generates a QR code from it. Once a QR code has been generated, the data you entered basically disappears," Jimenez said.
Registrants will still have to visit their respective Comelec offices to complete the process. - With a report from Reuters