Votes bought for P1K each
Liquor also offered in several villagesBy Fernan Gianan, Doris Bongac
Inquirer Southern Luzon, Inquirer Visayas
Candidates across the country pulled out all the stops as a single vote could spell defeat or victory in close contests in villages where the number of registered voters ranged from a few hundreds to a few thousands.
As a result, massive vote-buying was reported in Bicol, Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon, northern Luzon, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas and Western Visayas, as well as in Metro Manila.
Vote-buying was the norm in electoral contests in all 315 barangays in Catanduanes province, with candidates giving away anything from a sachet of 3-in-1 coffee and noodles to P10 worth of “pan de sal” and outright cash of as much as P1,000 per voter.
In Barangay San Pedro in Virac, the capital town, where there are 243 registered voters, a candidate allegedly gave P1,000 per vote, while in the neighboring village of San Jose, with the smallest voting population of 179, two rivals for barangay chair offered at least P400 for each vote.
In San Isidro village with more than a thousand voters, the biggest on the island, the five-way race for barangay chair had the front-runners offering at least P300 per voter.
The practice of buying votes was fanned by former provincial and municipal elective officials who wanted their previous posts using the backdoor by being elected barangay chair and subsequently becoming ex-officio council members as presidents of the Liga ng mga Barangay municipal chapter.
Among those running were former Catanduanes Board Member Rafael Zuniega, and former Virac Councilors Lemuel Surtida and Rene Abella. Zuniega and Abella lost their reelection bids in May, while Surtida had already completed his third term.
In Albay, citizen election watchers observed vote-buying in almost all villages of the province’s 15 towns and three cities.
The amounts given by candidates for barangay chair ranged from P50 to P2,000 per voter, while those running for a seat on the seven-member village council, the amounts ranged from P20 to P500 per voter. The amount was dependent on the size of a barangay and the number of voters.
Vote-buying was also reported in Masbate, Cavite, Quezon and Laguna provinces.
In Bulacan province, Hajii Pacheco, a candidate for barangay captain of Bancal in Meycauayan City, filed a disqualification case against his rival, Mariano Alarilla, for alleged vote-buying.
Bottles of wine
Pacheco said his supporters had recovered bottles of wine with the name and photograph of Alarilla on the labels. He said they also recovered envelopes containing P400 from the rival camp.
Tarlac Election Supervisor Fernando Cot-om said there were reports of vote-buying in San Jose town and in Tarlac City, but he asked complainants to execute affidavits so the Comelec could investigate.
In Nueva Ecija, residents reported that vote-buying was rampant in several barangays. They said some candidates for village chair had distributed from P500 to P1,000 to voters.
In Abra province, undercover police officers documented cases of vote-buying in the towns of Dolores, Tayum and the capital town of Bangued, according to Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong, Cordillera police chief.
Mandaue, Cebu, Talisay
In Mandaue City at 9 p.m. on Sunday, the village of Alang-alang was still abuzz.
The doors of houses were opened. Some residents had formed into small groups and were discussing on whom to vote.
But they were actually waiting for their political leaders to drop by and turn over their “pahalipay” (gratuity) that ranged from P50 to P100 each.
In a family of six, three were given P100 each stapled to a sample ballot that contained the names of candidates. The money was in crisp P50 bills.
The political leader explained that the family members would have to divide the money among themselves since they could not give money to everybody.
Earlier that day, two more political leaders visited the village. One had P40 clipped to a sample ballot while the other had a crisp P50 bill.
Most expensive so far
The amount for pahalipay in Cebu City was bigger.
One candidate for councilor from a northern barangay in Cebu City said he spent close to P80,000 on Sunday at P50 per voter. This didn’t include the P100 that his group was giving to those who had committed to vote for his entire slate.
“This is the most expensive election so far,” said a two-term barangay councilor.
An outgoing barangay captain from a Cebu City mountain barangay said opponents offered P300 to P500 per voter. “They are spending so they will win,” said the barangay captain, who is now running for barangay councilor.
The barangay chief said this was the first time since the 2002 elections that vote-buying again surfaced.
He added that the barangay elections were like a proxy war between reelected Mayor Michael Rama and Tomas Osmeña, Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) leader and a former mayor.
Cebu City has 80 barangays, 34 in the south district and 46 in the north.
Rama declined to comment on reports of vote-buying and the possible proxy war. Osmeña was in Italy attending the wedding of a close friend and was scheduled to be back on Tuesday.
Cebu City south district election officer Edwin Cadungog said his office had received reports of vote-buying in almost all barangays but these had to be verified.
However, radio reports showed that vote-buying ranged from P20 to P200 per voter.
Two women were arrested on Saturday afternoon on suspicion of vote-buying in Talisay City, Cebu, said PO1 Reuben Samson of the Talisay police.
Mary Geraga, 19, and Edita Alo, 49, were arrested through a citizen’s arrest by Xyrus Allan Bucao, 31, and Clint Gonzaga, of San Isidro Talisay.
The police seized 44 pieces of sample ballots enclosed with P150 from Geraga and 22 pieces of sample ballots from Alo.
Samson said the two were released and the complainants were told to file a case in the Comelec Talisay City office.
There were also reports of vote-buying in Argao town, Barangay Day-as in Cordova and Compostela towns in Cebu. The amounts involved ranged from P50 to P200.
In Eastern Visayas, P40 to P1,000 were given to voters, depending on the post being sought by candidates.
Candidates for councilor in Tacloban City, Leyte province, gave P40 to P100 to each voter while those running for barangay chair shelled out P200 to P1,000 for each voter.
Financing from ‘loan shark’
A candidate seeking a council seat in Tacloban said she applied for a loan from a “loan shark” just to finance her bid.
She gave P100 to each voter. The village has more than 800 registered voters.
Each vote reportedly cost P300 in Maasin City, Southern Leyte province.
Vote-buying was massive in one town in Eastern Samar where candidates for councilor gave as much as P400, while those running for barangay chair offered up to P800, local radio reports said.
There were also reports of vote-buying in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental province.
Nelson Ligaya, barangay chair of Barangay 16 in Bacolod, said he received reports that his opponent was distributing P500 per voter and P1,000 to each family head.
Comelec Provincial Election Officer Jesse Suarez noted reports of persons caught using carbon paper as they wrote the names of their candidates at the polling center in Pandanon, Murcia, allegedly as proof of payment of their votes, Suarez said.—With reports from Maricar Cinco, Romulo O. Ponte, Shiena Barrameda, Jofel Lancion, Juan Escandor Jr., Marrah Erika Lesaba, Madonna Virola, Mar Arguelles and Delfin Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon; Desiree Caluza, Melvin Gascon, Villamor Visaya Jr., Leilanie Adriano and Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Jo Martinez-Clemente, Tonette Orejas, Anselmo Roque, Armand Galang, Carmela Reyes-Estrope and Cesar Villa, Inquirer Central Luzon; and Jhunnex Napallacan, Jani Arnaiz, Joey Gabieta and Carla Gomez, Inquirer Visayas