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Reports of vote-buying pour in

/ 02:57 AM May 12, 2013

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga—Police in Candaba, Pampanga, on Saturday filed a complaint against an election coordinator in what is believed to be the first vote-buying case brought by the police in at least 20 years.

The case against Apolinario Cruz, a coordinator for a mayoral candidate who was caught handing out white envelopes containing three P100 bills each, sends a strong signal that the police are serious in the campaign against vote-buying, said Senior Supt. Oscar Albayalde, Pampanga police director.

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Election offenses under the Omnibus Election Code are punishable with imprisonment of not less than a year but not more than six years.

In Nueva Ecija, police arrested a village chief in the Science City of Muñoz for distributing two kilos of rice each to residents inside the Bical barangay hall on Friday.

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Supt. Crizaldo Nieves, the Nueva Ecija police director, said the police had received reports of massive vote-buying going on in various towns in Nueva Ecija. He said long lines of people were reported to be waiting for their turn to receive money from ward leaders of the candidates. The amount being handed out ranged from P500 to P2,000, he said.

In Baguio City, a rival of reelectionist Mayor Mauricio Domogan has asked the Commission on Elections to disqualify the mayor for vote-buying, citing an online video which allegedly showed money being distributed to government scholars.

Domogan’s opponent, Jose Molintas of the Liberal Party, also accused the mayor of using government property, a section of Burnham Park, as his campaign headquarters.

In Ifugao, reelectionist Rep. Teodoro Baguilat Jr. filed a disqualification case against his rival, former Rep. Solomon Chungalao, also for vote-buying, citing the distribution to supporters of membership cards doubling as “discount cards.”

Baguilat said a youth leader had testified in an affidavit that Chungalao’s discount cards granted cardholders access to gasoline for motorcycles, computer services and grocery items.

In Ilocos Sur, Kristine Gapusan, a candidate for mayor in Sta. Maria town, filed a disqualification case against incumbent Mayor Edgar Florendo in the Comelec’s Manila office for allegedly giving money to supporters. The alleged vote-buying was recorded on YouTube.

Ilocos Sur Rep. Ryan Luis Singson, who is running for governor, and his brother, former Rep. Ronald Singson, who is running for his old seat, belied the latest disqualification case filed by Liberal Party gubernatorial candidate Roque Verzosa Jr., who accused the brothers of vote-buying.

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Leaders of candidates and political parties in the Visayas were reportedly visiting the different barangays, either handing out money to voters or promising to give them money in exchange for their votes.

The amount varied “from a low of P20 per voter to as high as P3,000.” It was said that some candidates were willing to give as much as P20,000 if a family had three voters.

Voters are promised a bigger amount after voting, especially if they could present proof that they indeed voted for the candidate.

In Iloilo, voters in the second district were promised P300 to P500 each, and as much as P1,500 in Iloilo City.

“That’s only for the first wave. It will depend if their opponents will match or top the payment,” said a voter, adding that even candidates for municipal councilor were offering money for votes.

Nor does buying votes involve only cash. Candidates and those campaigning for them, even for some party-list groups, offer each voter P300 with a bucket of groceries.

In Negros Occidental,  a barangay councilor said that since April 6, politicians had been providing a weekly allowance to officials in his village and leaders who control a number of families in the village.

Barangay officials usually receive P500 a week while family leaders get P300.

In Leyte, Domingo Abiertas, Barangay 96 chair in Tacloban City, told dyVL Radio how coordinators acting for several candidates had gone to their barangay hall to inform them that they had something for the voters.

While vote-buying is an election offense, he said he could not stop the coordinators as the people expected to receive money during elections.

Minda, a fruit vendor in Tacloban City, said she accepts money from the candidates because it is only during elections that she can get “even” with the politicians.

“Whoever wins, corruption will still be there, so I might as well accept money from them,” she said.

In Negros Oriental, one provincial candidate is said to be offering P3,000 to every voter.

Kulas (not his real name) said he would get even more than P3,000 if he could prove that he had voted for the candidate. The proof would be a photo of his ballot taken with his cellular phone.

But Juvenal Tuale, the Comelec acting provincial supervisor, said voters would have difficulty providing such evidence as cameras are not allowed inside the voting precincts. Reports from Tonette Orejas and Anselmo Roque, Inquirer Central Luzon; Frank Cimatu, Leoncio Balbin Jr. and Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Carmel Matus, Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Carla P. Gomez, Joey A. Gabieta, Carine Asutilla, Veda Bongcalos, Inquirer Visayas

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TAGS: 2013 elections, vote-buying
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