Press Release
February 1, 2017

Senate Session Hall
Sponsorship Speech for Senate Bill No. 1108
Chairperson of the Committee on Electoral Reform and People's Participation

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, it is my honor as Chairperson of the Committee on Electoral Reform and People's Participation to report back to you that Senate Bill No. 1108 has been considered, studied and publicly heard.

After taking into account the inputs of the Commission on Elections and other stakeholders, we are now recommending that Senate Bill No. 1108, introduced by Sen. Joseph Victor G. Ejercito be approved with amendments[1].

Before I joined public service, I was an election lawyer advocating for clean and honest elections. Advancing then the interest of my clients, I made sure that no mockery of the election process would take place and that they do not become victims of election cheating or violence.

As an election lawyer, I served a number of Governors, Vice Governors, Congressmen, Congresswomen, Mayors, Vice Mayors, Councilors and even Barangay Chairmen.

I am honored to have served as an election lawyer to the likes of then Senator Raul Roco, then Senate President Manny Villar, and now Senate President Koko Pimentel. Incidentally, Senator Pimentel's case was an eye-opener on the intensity and gravity of the electoral fraud and irregularities that transpired in the 2007 National and Local Elections. In the end, over 300,000 fake ballots were found to have been included in the tally of the elections and which were consequently invalidated by the Senate Electoral Tribunal in its 2011 Decision of that protest case.

I also served as the election lawyer of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano who, during the 2007 Elections, was not a "favorite" of Malacañang, so to speak. Yes, I advocated for Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano at a time when the might of the entire administration was bearing heavily down on him. Fighting for truth and justice, I believed then that it was unfair and unjust if he was deprived of the chance to serve the public as Senator simply because he was critical of the Arroyo administration.

Mr. President, it is exactly because of my experience as an election lawyer that I understand the need for the imposition of stricter penalties for the commission of election offenses, stricter than those already provided for in Batas Pambansa Bilang 881 or the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines[2] and Republic Act No. 8189 or the Voter's Registration Act of 1996[3].

Indeed, the idea of being imprisoned for SIX YEARS AND ONE DAY BUT NOT MORE THAN TWELVE YEARS, as proposed to be increased from the current imposable penalty of only one year to not more than six years, for the commission of an election offense would be a deterrent against the perpetration of election fraud or irregularities. Aside from this singular increase in the penalty for the commission of election offenses, this prospective law that seeks to amend the Omnibus Election Code and RA 8189 also provides for the following:

1. If the offender is an officer or employee of the Comelec, the AFP, the PNP, or any other security force including para-military units, he shall be punished with the maximum penalty of TWELVE YEARS;

2. If the election offense is committed through and attended by violence, coercion, intimidation, force, or threats, the guilty offender shall suffer a higher penalty of imprisonment of TWELVE YEARS AND ONE DAY at the minimum, up to TWENTY YEARS at the maximum;

3. The political party, coalition, or party-list to which the guilty offender belongs shall be penalized with a fine of not less than FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS, increased from the current Ten Thousand Pesos, as part of the civil liability incurred for the commission of the election offense;

4. In case of a prisoner illegally released from any penitentiary or jail, the director of prisons, provincial warden, keeper of the jail or prison, or persons who are required by law to keep said prisoner in their custody AND THE SUBJECT PRISONER shall suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA, if the prisoner illegally released commits any act of intimidation, terrorism or interference in the election;

5. For violations of prohibited acts under RA 8189, or the Voter's Registration Act, the same increase in penalties shall apply, including the graver penalties when committed with and attended by violence, coercion, intimidation, force or threats, or when committed by an officer or employee of the Comelec, the AFP, the PNP, or any other security force including para-military units;

6. If a felony penalized under the Revised Penal Code is committed in connection with an election or political exercise, the election-related element shall be appreciated as an aggravating circumstance in the commission of said felony; and

7. If the commission of the election offense likewise constitutes a felony under the Revised Penal Code, the offender shall be prosecuted separately and concurrently under the Omnibus Election Code and the Revised Penal Code.

And perhaps most significantly, Mr. President, these proposed amendments will ensure higher success rates in the prosecution of such offenses, considering that these higher penalties will qualify potential witnesses to avail of the benefits of Republic Act No. 6981, or the "Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act", which, under Section 3, paragraph a of said law as it currently stands, requires that "the offense in which [the witness's] testimony will be used is a grave felony as defined under the Revised Penal Code, or its equivalent under special laws."

The proposed increase in the penalty would precisely make it a grave felony, and therefore, qualify under the WPP of any witness to avail of the benefits thereunder.

All these are imperative amendments to our existing body of election laws because our electoral process is sacred.

It is the cornerstone of democracy itself.[4]

Severe as it may seem, the gravity of the penalties in the proposed bill is commensurate to the crime committed, especially for Comelec officials and government security forces since they are the ones responsible of ensuring a free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections. This bill therefore pushes further against the culture of corruption and "bantay-salakay" in our electoral processes, against the practice of the guardians becoming the culprits of fraud and cheating.

Admittedly, increasing penalties alone will not solve the problem of cheating in our electoral system. So long as only a few are prosecuted and jailed--and that is the reality now--and election officials will continue to be corrupted by candidates and their election operators. This is why the Committee on Electoral Reforms and People's Participation has lined up a series of bills proposed by our distinguished colleagues in this august chamber, measures that will in totality contribute to ensure effective election law enforcement, if not introduce an overhaul of the way we conduct our elections, including the reform of the political party system, the enactment of an anti-political dynasty law, and a re-configuration of election campaign financing towards the democratization of the donor's base and transparency on large campaign financiers.

Needless to say, this proposed bill is but a first step towards what we envision as a modernized political party and electoral system geared towards greater public participation in the essential exercise of the people's political right to determine the future they want for themselves.

But first, we must start with the basics of remedying the anomaly in our antiquated election laws, by putting more teeth on the penalties that were formulated long ago in a milieu and an era very different from our own. From manual elections we have shifted to automated elections, thus also shifting forms of election cheating from vote-padding and vote-shaving during the canvassing process to pre-election day election violations on campaign propaganda as well as massive-vote buying.

Ang biro po ngayon ay imbes na sa mga abogado at operator na nagbubuhos ng perang pandaya, ay inuubos na lang sa vote-buying ang pera ng mga kandidato. Totoo man ito o hindi, ang punto ay nag-iba na ang kalakaran sa larangan ng ating halalan, kasama na dito ang mga pamamaraan sa pandaraya. Ang sagot natin dito ay ang walang tigil na pag-repaso ng ating mga batas para umakma sa umiiral na realidad ng ating panahon. Kung nasaan ang kalapastanganan sa pandaraya, doon tayo dapat matunton ng sambayanan, nag-uusisa at umuusig sa mga natitira pang mga politiko na hindi naniniwala sa pamamaraan ng demokrasya, ngunit sa kabila ay natutuwa pang umupo sa posisyon na nakamit sa pamamagitan ng pandaraya at pagnakaw sa hatol ng sambayanan.

Tapusin na po natin ang ganitong uri ng pulitika at mga ganitong uri ng mga politiko. Ngunit sa kasalukuyan, dagdagan muna natin ang taon ng pagbilanggo sa mga mandaraya, opisyal man ng gobyerno o kandidato, para mabulok naman ang kanilang kampon sa bilangguan, at subukan nilang doon tumakbo bilang mga gang leader ng mga katulad nilang mga pusakal. Dahil mas malala pa ang kanilang kasalanan sa bayan bilang mga naturing na magnanakaw, pumapatay, at gumagahasa sa ating demokrasya.

In the words of Sen. Ejercito, the author of the bill, "It is of vital importance to ensure that election results represent the sovereign will of the people and not manipulated by individuals who desire the seat of power to protect their personal interests." We must stand against unscrupulous individuals who allow themselves to be conspirators in the travesty of the electoral process.

In light of the foregoing, I hereby appeal to my colleagues to lend their support for these imperative amendments to our body of election laws.

Marami pong salamat!


[1] The paragraph on Page 2, Lines 26-35, shall now read as follows:

"(B) In case of prisoner or prisoners illegally released from any penitentiary or jail during the prohibited period as provided in Section 261, paragraph (n) of this Code, the director of prisons, provincial warden, keeper of the jail or prison, or persons who are required by law to keep said prisoner in their custody AND THE SUBJECT PRISONER OR PRISONERS shall, if convicted by a competent court, be sentenced to suffer the penalty of [prision mayor in its maximum period] RECLUSION PERPETUA, if the prisoner or prisoners so illegally released commit any act of intimidation, terrorism [of] OR interference in the election."

[2] Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines

[3] Voter's Registration Act of 1996

[4] Jose B. Lingad vs. Hon. Andres C. Aguilar, as Presiding Judge of the Second Branch of the Court of First Instance of Pampanga and Juanita L. Nepomuceno, G.R. No. L-31478, January 23, 1970

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