PURPORTED proofs of alleged vote buying that are posted on social media do not prove anything.
This was the statement of lawyer Nick Mendros, regional director of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Western Visayas.
In an interview with Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo station manager John Paul Tia, Mendros said people who accuse a candidate of vote buying should prove their claims by filing official complaints and present proofs to establish the link to the candidate in question.
You cannot presume, you have to prove. This is something that should be clarified. For the successful prosecution of the crime of vote buying and vote selling, we cannot presume. There should be a link that the purpose of the giving (of anything of value) is in exchange of the vote. Hindi yan dapat i-presume, it should be established for the successful prosecution of vote buying, Mendros said.
Mendros said photos of money and sample ballots posted on social media are hardly evidence of vote buying.
I-post mo sa social media, mayroong P100, P50 na may pangalan ng kandidato, is that vote buying? Hindi pa ho. Because we have establish na sinung nagbigay nyan? Sa kanya ba yan? Ang purpose ba nyan is para bumoto? We have to establish a link from the person named on that money, na sya talaga nagbigay at ang purpose nyan is to convince that person to vote for him, he added.
Mendros said if the complainant cannot directly link the candidate to vote buying, the person who will be prosecuted is the one who handed out the money or any item of value.
If we want to target the candidate, there should be a link to that person, he said.
Mendros also said that mere possession of envelopes containing money that are allegedly meant for vote buying is not enough to prosecute the owner or bearer of such items.
He also stressed that there is no such crime as attempted vote buying under election laws.
Kung ikaw may dalang pera, may pangalan ng kandidato, may pangalan ng botante, naka-sobre na for distribution at nahuli ka sa checkpoint, would you believe na pwede ka bang kasuhan ng vote buying? Hindi. Because youre just possessing the money, youre not distributing it. Because the existing law provided states that the acts of vote buying and vote selling should be consummated, Mendros said.
Mendros said claiming or accusing a candidate of vote buying is easy, but proving it is another thing.
Even the police should be careful in responding to claims of vote buying, especially those carried out in private places like houses.
If vote buying is done in houses, do you think the Comelec and the PNP can enter without a search warrant? You have to apply for a search warrant otherwise, kasuhan kami, he added.
It is also possible that another candidate or party could use the purported vote buying proof to sabotage or malign another candidate or group.
Mendros said their hands are tied by the existing legal environment which the Comelec has been trying to change via congressional fiat.