Vote buying among poor rampant, says Catholic Church official in Iloilo

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ILOILO CITY, Philippines — A church leader has lamented the extensive vote-buying in Monday’s barangay elections, saying the culture of vote-buying has worsened.

He also called for closer and greater public scrutiny over how the barangay’s funds and share in the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) are spent.

“We thought that national and local elections are the worst. But the barangay elections are not different,” Msgr. Meliton Oso, director of the Jaro Archdiocesan social action center, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Oso, also the archdiocesan coordinator of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), said that in previous barangay elections, reports of vote-buying and other irregularities were sporadic but in Monday’s elections, the reports and accounts were common.

“Before, they just gave out rice or other material gifts but in Monday’s elections I received reports of vote-buying from a low of P200 to P400 to as much as P1,000 per voter,” he said.

Aside from handing out cash, there were also extensive reports of candidates providing free rides, snacks or meals to voters before and after casting their votes.

Oso said the willingness of voters to accept the bribes showed the level of poverty being suffered by majority of the voters and the decline in values.

“Politicians are exploiting the poverty of the people. Vote-buying is wrong and it is a sin. Just because it has become a common practice does not make it right,” he said.

Oso said the amount spent by candidates in the barangay elections should prod the public to be more vigilant in the affairs of their barangay, especially the spending of funds.

“We should attend general assemblies, scrutinize barangay development plans and review financial reports because the IRA fund is also a source of corruption especially for candidates who want to recover their election expenses,” he said.

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