Comelec: Robredo not liable for vote-buying remark

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 28) — Vice President Leni Robredo can't be held criminally liable for her remark that voters can accept money offered by candidates in the 2022 polls but must vote according to their conscience, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Thursday.

"I don't see any liability for her now. I think it is not something that should have been said, but in terms of criminal liability, I don't really see it," Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told CNN Philippines' The Source.

Jimenez was referring to Robredo's comment in a forum with household workers earlier this week, where she was asked for advice to those who may encounter vote buying. The Vice President clarified that she also believes vote buying is wrong, "but looking at realities on the ground, it happens."

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Buying and selling votes are election offenses that are punishable with imprisonment of up to six years and disqualification from holding public office and voting, according to the Omnibus Election Code.

Meanwhile, Jimenez stressed that if Robredo would be criminally liable, it would mean that they would also have to probe all political aspirants who made a comment on the issue.

"I would say, then we would have to probe everyone who ever said that. Remember it's not just one person who said that, multiple candidates have actually said that. So probe namin lahat? (So do we probe everyone of them?)" he said.

Jimenez acknowledged that political camps who are not proven to take part in vote selling can raise any defense to their advantage, especially if there is no clear evidence on their intent. However, any candidate who gives money during the campaign period will have to be investigated.

"Again, it's a question of what you believe in as an individual. If you think it's a good idea, say so. But I disagree. As far as Comelec is concerned, that is against the law," he added.