Social media reports that buying votes is not enough to sue without testimony – Comelec

MANILA, Philippines — The Election Commission said incidents of vote-buying reported via social media could be difficult to prosecute without people coming forward to testify.

“It is very difficult to prosecute crimes like this simply because it is difficult to seek evidence and testimony and we do not want the courts to dismiss our cases,” said Comelec Commissioner George Garcia. an interview with CNN Philippines’ “The Source” on Thursday.

Garcia said that while social media posts are enough for his anti-vote-buying task force to investigate, without testimony from the person who took the video, the case might not prosper.

He noted that previous cases involving vote buying had not moved forward because some plaintiffs withdrew, while other evidence was not deemed credible.

The task force will have the National Bureau of Investigation lead the verification and investigation of the social media posts, while the Department of Justice will pursue the case.

Garcia said that to verify a video, an investigation team or Comelec field staff could be sent to the scene seen in a video reported on social media to gather their own documentary evidence. This may include actual envelopes given to people in the area.

“We decided to make it a multi-agency task force para po mas effective ‘yung ating campaign, para po mas katakutan naman yung gagawin ng Comelec (so that the campaign is more effective and people fear the consequences imposed by Comelec),,” García said.

The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Philippine News Agency, the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are also part of the task force.

Comelec said it asked its field staff to investigate and submit reports to its legal department even before the task force was established. These will now be given to curator Aimee Ferolino, who will lead the group.

Those found guilty of vote buying after the task force’s investigation will face cases of disqualification, if an election candidate is an involved party, as well as an election violation.

Garcia pointed out that they could spend one to six years behind bars.

In a Comelec briefing on Thursday, Garcia said disqualification cases could also be brought even if the candidates win the election.

For elected officials, Comelec said it can suspend their proclamation if they find themselves faced with a case of disqualification or that their proclamation can be canceled “so that the rules of succession can now be effective”. —Kaycee Valmonte

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