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Dumaguete City, Philippines Saturday, May 14, 2016
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NOCCI head calls for probe
of ‘fake' debit card in polls

The Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, Eduard Du, is calling for an investigation of what he believes is a scam involving the distribution of red ATM debit cards to the public during the elections.

He said he hopes the National Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Commission on Elections, and even the Philippine National Police will undertake a probe to locate the person or persons responsible for these payment cards which has now caused a public uproar.

Describing it as an ingenuity of the unknown source, Du explained he is not interested in the political or electoral background of the card circulation but rather the effect this would have on the business community, as there is a risk that the cards could be “abused”.

A card has even reached as far as Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, while some businesses in Mabinay, Negros Oriental, have also inquired with him about it, Du said.

“This is a unique case. The first perhaps in the Philippines, involving such method,” Du noted.

He said he has received queries from the business sector on the veracity of the supposed debit card, apparently after reports of alleged attempts by some people having received these ATM cards to do transactions with them.

The debit cards have caused public uproar, particularly among registered voters in Dumaguete City and the second district of Negros Oriental, following Monday's elections.

These cards, with an undetermined number being circulated, were purportedly handed out before the elections to registered voters with the promise of receiving P1,000 per person to be collected after the elections.

Those who received the supposed debit cards had even gone to the house of this particular candidate, who lost in the elections, to claim what was promised but to no avail.

Media reports say some irate individuals had even started stoning the house of the candidate, who had not appeared before a large crown gathered at his house in Amlan, Negros Oriental.

Pictures of the red plastic cards have gone viral on social media, with many comments from people who claimed they were duped, while others also criticized that this is not the only “vote-buying” activity in Negros Oriental as many other candidates were also into it.

But Du insisted that this is not all about politics or the elections; rather what its implications are, considering that the red cards appear to be authentic.

Two of the cards were presented to Du, and upon closer inspection showed some “spurious” features, he said.

The supposed plastic payment card has “PM Bank” imprinted on it, a set of embossed numbers, “magnetic strip”, a validity date and what appears to be the issuing bank's logo. A verification made with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in Dumaguete City showed that there is no PM Bank existing in the BSP's website, Du said.

Gregg Baccay of BSP also said they are still coordinating with the head office to make a formal statement regarding the proliferation of the purported pay cards.

Fred Magallano, executive director of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting in Negros Oriental, clarified that the group does not have police or investigating powers regarding this.

He said that PPCRV has submitted an incident report on this, as one person had appeared on election day at the PPCRV command center to present a red PM Card with a sample ballot that he and his mother had received with the promise of P1,000 each after the elections.

Magallano clarified that as a citizen's arm of the Comelec, it can only report on incidents of vote-buying, discrepancies and problems in the electoral process and other related matters as part of its mandate on voters' education and poll watching.

Acting provincial election supervisor Lionel Marco Castillano admitted it is difficult to go after the people who have initiated the distribution of the payment cards as no one is interested to testify.

While vote-buying is punishable by law, it is also difficult to prove, Castillano added.*JFP


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