A determined Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced on Thursday, May 19 that it is intent on going after those who were involved in vote buying and vote selling activities.
In a press briefing, Acting Spokesperson John Rex C. Laudiangco said that a total of 12 verified vote buying complaints have been docketed and lodged before the Comelec Law Department awaiting preliminary investigation.
This was out of the 933 messages that the Facebook page of Task Force Kontra Bigay had already received and responded to; the 167 emails that its official email has received and the 73 reports that the Comelec Law Department has received.
Laudiangco added that the poll body is being more aggressive to address the issue and urged those who have knowledge of vote buying incidents to help the Comelec since it’s them who have the necessary evidence needed to file a complaint. He also asked those who will report incidents if they can, to submit it through a complaint affidavit so that it can immediately be processed for preliminary investigation.
Of the 167 emails, 88 were considered valid reports while the rest were just expressing sentiments, stating events not necessarily related to vote-buying and vote-selling. Out of the 88, only 49 were able to submit evidence. He said that the poll body, the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and poll watchdog Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) are ready to assist.
Out of the 73 reports, 50 were already acted upon. Viral videos sent via email messenger have been endorsed to the Comelec’s security partners.
Since there was no more room for cheating in the electoral process with the introduction of the Automated Election System (AES), politicians opted to exploit the human factor or the vulnerability of candidates through vote buying, according to Laudiangco. Since 2019, he has mentioned that vote buying incidents have been increasing, tagging it as a “bittersweet” experience.
He also reminded that an election offense is a criminal case and cannot push through just based on mere circumstances.
“It’s a criminal case na may pagkakakulong that’s why ang conviction po dito ang bar is conviction of guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Ganyan kataas po yung level ng evidence na kailangan naming maidala sa korte (It’s a criminal case that involves jailing someone that’s why the conviction is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. That’s how high the degree of evidence we need to bring to court),” he explained.
He also clarified that they will still pursue the vote-buying incidents even if there are no complainants but it will be a more arduous and circuitous process since they have to engage first the investigation and security agencies to determine the veracity of the incidents.