Philippines bans money, alcohol ahead of elections

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 May, 2013, 6:04pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 May, 2013, 6:04pm


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The Philippines on Wednesday banned people from carrying large amounts of cash and buying alcohol in controversial efforts to curb rampant vote-buying and violence before elections next week.

The shock money ban means banks are not allowed to hand over more than 100,000 pesos (HK$19,010) to customers until after Monday’s mid-term elections, the Commission on Elections announced.

The commission’s directive also makes it illegal for anyone to carry more than half a million pesos in cash until polls close.

“We’re trying to prevent the circulation of cash, which can be used for vote-buying,” its chief Sixto Brillantes told reporters.

However the ban, which had been kept secret to ensure corrupt politicians and their aides did not withdraw large amounts of money beforehand, sparked outrage from business groups and even other branches of government.

The central bank described the ruling as “unsound” and illegal, saying it violated laws guaranteeing the secrecy of bank accounts.

Meanwhile, ordinary voters were facing the prospect of a long break from alcohol, after the election commission extended a ban that is traditionally enforced for two days before elections to five days.

Selling and drinking alcohol in public is banned until Tuesday morning.

Authorities had already been enforcing a ban on the carrying of guns in public since January to try to curb violence ahead of the elections, when more than 18,000 posts around the country will be contested.

The positions range from local council level to the nation’s Congress, with elections for the fixed, six-year presidential term due in 2016.

The Philippines is infamous for a violent and corrupt brand of democracy. Politicians typically resort to bribery, intimidation or, in extreme cases, murder, with tensions peaking in the days before elections.

The husband of a town mayor and an aide were shot dead in an election-campaign ambush in the central Philippines on Monday, lifting the number of people killed in poll-related violence this year to at least 50.

In 2009, 58 people were massacred in the worst single act of election-related violence in recent Philippine political history.

A political clan in the south is alleged to have carried out the murders to stamp out a rival’s challenge for the post of provincial governor.