Vote buying makes its presence felt
LINGAYEN, Pangasinan—Vote-buying allegations have been documented and broadcast by media in the provinces, as political campaigns heat up days before Monday’s elections.
But few of the allegations have found their way to the local offices of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
At a news conference on Friday, outgoing Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino Jr. accused a rival political party of undertaking “massive and blatant” vote buying. He cited digitally coded cards that, he said, served as claim stubs for cash in exchange for votes.
He said voters received the cards in the middle of April.
Espino is running for representative in the province’s fifth district, against reelectionist Rep. Kimi Cojuangco. Cojuangco’s husband, former Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco, is running for governor against Espino’s son, Board Member Amado Espino III.
The cards contain the voter’s name, date of birth, address and civil status. The Comelec is checking the cards, fearing that these used information stolen from the Comelec data banks.
“People are surprised that when the card is scanned, their photos appear on the computer screen. If the photo matches the [card bearer], he or she is given money ranging from P500 to P1,500,” said Espino.
“What will be the implication of this security breach on the integrity and credibility of the coming elections?” he said.
In Bulacan province, authorities addressed reports of vote buying in the towns of Guiguinto and Bocaue, and in Meycauayan City.
On Friday, observers noted a long line of vehicles leading to the house of a mayoral candidate in Guiguinto.
On Thursday in Meycauayan, a retired police official reportedly harassed members of the Bulacan Press Club who were investigating reports of vote buying in a village there.
In Nueva Ecija province, a woman came from a political rally in Cabanatuan City carrying a bag filled with rice, noodles, coffee sachets and other items.
The woman said she was given a stub containing the name, picture and signature of a local candidate and was told to attend a rally at the village gym.
She said she also received P300 to attend the political rally of another mayoral candidate.
A campaign team organizer, who asked not to be named, said his employer, a candidate for mayor, had spent more than P400 million for the campaign.
In a separate interview, a former campaign coordinator said running a local campaign had become too costly
for local candidates.
Candidates became “walking ATMs” (automated teller machines) because they handed out cash for fiestas, sports competitions, medical assistance and even for the installation of water pumps or the replacement of leaking roofs, he said.
In Oriental Mindoro province, Romeo Mheo Canega said he had been offered P50,000 to be a local coordinator for a candidate but he chose to be a volunteer for the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) in Naujan town.
“Vote buying and selling are rampant. It’s a culture that is hard to break, but change happens in small steps,” said Canega, 37, a farmer and entrepreneur.
He and more than 800 volunteers from the province have committed to the One Good Vote (OGV) program of the PPCRV.
“OGV is a campaign where we [appeal to the conscience of] voters, especially first-timers, to choose candidates according to the three Ks—karakter (character), kakayahan (ability) at kasanayan (experience),” said Fr. Egay Fabic, director of the Diocesan Service Commission (DSC), which supports the PPCRV program.
PPCRV is piloting the program in Barangay Ibaba East in the Oriental Mindoro capital of Calapan, where people are vulnerable to vote buying because of poverty.
“We gave away paper money with an amount that suggests the equivalent of a person’s worth,” said Evelyn Adarlo, justice and peace coordinator of the DSC.
She said they held forums and showed videos to educate voters and candidates.
Calapan Bishop Warlito Cajandig sought prayers from the faithful as they troop to their precincts on Monday.
“We have to accept reality. Work with and pray for…the next president, [whoever he or she] will be,” Cajandig said.
“What can we do if we choose a president who [does not have the ability]? We just have to accept [the results of the elections] because that’s the reality. Then we’ll see how we can work with him [or her] and we pray,” the bishop said.
Cajandig said people should not blame the majority if they chose “tougher candidates” because, he said, “the previous [leaders had] failed their expectations.” Reports from Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Anselmo Roque, Inquirer Central Luzon, and Madonna T. Virola, Inquirer Southern Luzon