PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON Salvador S. Panelo on Tuesday defended senatorial candidate and former special assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” T. Go’s alleged cash distribution to fire victims.
At a news conference at the Palace on Tuesday, Mr. Panelo expressed doubts on whether Mr. Go can be held liable for vote-buying. “Why don’t they file if that is what they believe in? You know, I looked at the provision. Baka mahirapan (The [complainant/s] may have a hard time), kasi (because) what it says there is that ‘will induce the voter to be influenced.’ Mukhang iba ang situation dito kay (In the case of) Bong Go (the situation seems different) sapagkat (because) these are donations and they are fire victims.”
A report by on March 15 said Mr. Go “made cash donations to fire victims during or immediately after his visit to communities stricken by fire,” and these were made “during the campaign period.”
Vote-buying, according to the Omnibus Election Code, is when a person “gives, offers or promises money or anything of value…in order to induce anyone or the public in general to vote for or against any candidate or withhold his vote in the election, or to vote for or against any aspirant for the nomination or choice of a candidate in a convention or similar selection process of a political party.”
Mr. Panelo further said, “The operative word is ‘inducement.’ If the intention is to induce, then you will be violating the provision. But the problem is how you will prove inducement, especially in this particular case of Bong Go where there are fire victims.”
“Knowing that man, I don’t think he will allow that to happen. But anyway, if they feel that he has violated, oh di mag-file (they can file a complaint),” he said.
The President’s spokesman also noted that Mr. Go surged to No. 3 in the latest 2019 Pulse Asia survey.
“Well, given the fact that he is very visible, I am not surprised why he is within the top 3. He’s very visible and as we know in this election…, awareness is number one consideration. He may be very good, but if the people are not aware of your name, my goodness, wala rin (nothing will happen),” he said.
Following his latest ranking at No. 3 in Pulse Asia’s survey, Mr. Go said in a statement, “Muli po, maraming salamat sa aking mga supporters na naniniwala sa aking kakayahan at katapatan maglingkod karugtong ng aking hangarin na mag-serbisyo sa Pilipino. Nakakataba po ng puso ang inyong pagtitiwala.” (Again, thank you very much to my supporters for placing your trust in my abilities and my loyalty to serve. It is flattering).
He added: “Mas importante sa akin ang makatulong at makapagserbisyo sa tao, higit pa sa pangangampanya. Uunahin ko po palagi ang mga mahihirap at mga nangangailangan ng tulong.” (Helping and serving the people is more important to me than campaigning. I will always prioritize the poor and those who need help.) — Arjay L. Balinbin