Taps NBI fieldmen for spot-checking, banks to monitor cashless transactions
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to get men out in the field to monitor campaign rallies and sorties of national and local candidates for cases of vote buying.
“I have directed the NBI to mobilize their field and regional offices and be active and not just wait for tips, but go out themselves, go out to rallies and sorties so that they [vote buyers] can get caught in the act,” Guevarra said.
Guevarra issued the order a day after saying the Department of Justice may investigate cases of vote buying on its own initiative, but preferred to wait for a directive from the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Guevarra said that there was no need to get a warrant of arrest from a court if they actually saw vote buying being done in their presence.
The DOJ chief said there are two main elements of vote buying–the act of offering, promising or giving money or anything of value, and second is the intention to induce the voter to vote for or against a particular candidate.
He said the combination of the two elements will make the offense of vote buying.
“So, the intention is important… because if it is given just to help and no one says to vote for this or that, there is nothing wrong with that, but if the objective is to vote for someone, that is vote buying punishable under the Omnibus Election Code,” he said.
Reiterating his promise to give priority to such cases, Guevarra said a case will be filed first against the one who buys votes but that it will be expanded to cover the candidate.
“The first to be sued will be the one who directly buys votes and later on, if he admits that he was just ordered to do so by a candidate, then that will be the beginning of an expanded investigation,” he said.
He also reminded the public that under the Omnibus Election Code, charges can also be brought against those who accept money or anything of value in return for or against a certain candidate.
“Under the Election Code, even those who ask or accept or promise not to vote or vote for a candidate are also liable,” he added.
Guevarra appealed to the public to help fight vote buying.
“It is important for people to take action and file a complaint. Let’s act, let’s file a complaint and then leave it to us to process the case. We will hurry,” he added.
Guevarra said his office will be seeking the help of banks to check on cashless transactions used in vote buying and electoral fraud.
On Tuesday, Guevarra said the DOJ will form a composite team for the Comelec’s inter-agency task force against vote buying on May 9.
He said the team will be composed of prosecutors from the National Prosecution Service, lawyers from the Public Attorneys Office and the main and field offices of the DOJ Action Center as well as investigators from the NBI.
The task force, the Comelec said, will be composed of the DOJ, the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Philippine Information Agency, the NBI, the Philippine National Police, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The poll body said the task force will act on its own initiative or on formal complaints involving vote buying.
Commissioner George Garcia on Thursday defended the appointment of Commissioner Aimee Ferolino as chairperson of an inter-agency task force against vote buying.
Ferolino had come under fire earlier this year for delaying a decision on the disqualification case against presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos until a fellow commissioner who was expected to vote in favor of it had retired.
But Garcia told CNN Philippines Ferolino had “vast experience in the field” as a former provincial election supervisor and he vouched for her integrity.