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Cases of vote-buying reported nationwide

/ 02:17 AM May 14, 2013

Despite the exertions of the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) to stop politicians from buying votes, money ruled the day in many parts of the country on Monday as Filipinos voted in midterm elections.

In central and northern Luzon, vote-buying went on from Sunday night till voters went to the polls Sunday.

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With vote-buying went other attempts to beat the automated ballot scanners.

In Pampanga, village officials in Bacolor arrested nine suspected  “flying voters” who tried to cast their votes for incumbent Mayor Jose Maria Hizon.

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Two of them, who said they were residents of the Northville government resettlement center in nearby Angeles City, admitted to village officials that they were given P500 each and identification cards with their names and polling precinct numbers.

Senior Supt. Oscar Albayalde, Pampanga police director, said the suspected flying voters were undergoing investigation.

Lawyer Ferdinand Cot-om, Pampanga election supervisor, confirmed the investigation.

‘Preshaded’ ballots

In Guagua town, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) confirmed that some ballots in Precinct 0169-A in Betis Elementary School were “preshaded “to favor a mayoral candidate, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David said.

In Olongapo City, mayoral candidate Rolen Paulino accused supporters of his rival of vote-buying. Paulino, the incumbent city vice mayor, is seeking the mayoralty against Anne Marie Gordon, wife of outgoing Olongapo City Mayor James Gordon Jr.

Tensions began on Sunday night when Paulino, accompanied by his supporters, went to the office of Arlida Pame, president of Gordon College, and kicked the door to confront the official over vote-buying.

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Since then, text messages, postings on the social networking site Facebook, and tweets had been reporting that Anne Gordon and her husband, who is running in the first congressional district of Zambales, had both been disqualified.

But a source in the Gordons’ camp denied the reports.

“This is a desperate attempt to mislead people into voting for their losing candidates,” the source said.

Lawyer Dictador Untayao, city election officer, said no disqualification charges had been filed in his office.

In Pangasinan, police seized P65,000 from two village council members in Tayug town who allegedly distributed money in Sitio (settlement) Caipilan, Barangay (village) Agno on Sunday night.

Also found in their possession were two sheets of paper that listed the names and signatures of people who allegedly received money.

In Bulacan, supporters of reelectionist Malolos City Mayor Christian Natividad and his rival, former Mayor Danilo Domingo, gathered at the city center and traded accusations of vote-buying on Sunday night.

Vote-buying was also reported in Angat town.

In Zambales, vote-buying incidents were also reported in Iba, Sta. Cruz, Botolan and Subic towns.

‘Vote-selling’ too

In Bicol, vote-buying and “vote-selling” were widespread in all the six provinces of the region, according to Romeo Fortess, regional director of the Comelec.

Fortess said P20 to P50 were offered for local councilors, P100 to P500 for mayoral candidates and P500 to P2,000 for gubernatorial and congressional offices.

Fortess said the information came from towns and cities in Albay, Sorsogon, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes and Masbate provinces.

The Comelec, however, cannot prosecute anyone in the absence of concrete evidence, he said.

In Catanduanes, vote-buying continued on Monday in the gubernatorial race, with one camp distributing an additional P200 on top of the P500 given days earlier in the capital town of Virac, according to sources privy to the distribution but asked not to be named for security reasons.

Not to be outdone, the other camp allegedly gave P500 per voter, and some voters did not make haste in going to the polls, waiting for the windfall.

The race for the capitol is being contested by reelectionist Gov. Joseph Cua and three independents—Araceli Wong, Larry Que and Pio Joson.

Reports of massive vote-buying in different towns in Quezon were also received by the police provincial office in Camp Nakar in Lucena City, according to the spokesperson for the Quezon police.

No complaints

But despite the complaints, Chief Insp. Edcille Canals said nobody came forward with charges.

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, whose son David is the reelectionist Quezon governor, said the province’s second district, including Lucena City, is the center of alleged vote-buying, with P1,000 to P2,000 being offered to each voter.

In Barangay Cotta, Lucena City, voters were spotted being herded into a wet market by some yellow-shirted men allegedly to be offered money for their votes.

The Inquirer correspondent in Lucena City tried to go inside the market, but the suspected vote-buyers scampered out when they saw the journalist.

Members of a news crew from ABS-CBN said they were able to get video of actual vote-buying inside the market.

In San Jose town in Camarines Sur, a food stand outside San Jose Central School was giving out food sponsored by local candidates.

In Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro, children were seen distributing sample ballots and campaign materials near Suqui Elementary School.

Buying in the Visayas

In the Visayas, the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas said Monday they would file charges against 10 people in Cebu and two in Bohol who were arrested for vote-buying.

Police also made arrests in Western and Eastern Visayas where vote-buying was reported to have been rampant.

Lawyer Temie Lambino of the Comelec regional office said the police would file vote-buying charges against the suspects, from whom P100,000 in cash and sample ballots were seized.

Police in Western and Eastern Visayas also arrested some people for alleged vote-buying.

In Leyte, Insp. Eufronio Obong, information officer of the regional police, said one person was arrested in Southern Leyte while another was arrested in Northern Samar for alleged vote-buying.

Vote-buying was reported across Eastern Visayas on Monday. Cash offers ranged from as low as P20 for councilor posts to P1,500 for mayoral positions.

In Biliran, the rates ranged from P20 (for councilors) to P900 (from gubernatorial candidates).

In Western Visayas, the PPCRV reported vote-buying all over the region and said the irregularity was worse than in previous elections.

Msgr. Meliton Oso, PPCRV Iloilo and Guimaras coordinator, said the council received reports of cases of vote-buying, with cash offers ranging from P20 to P500 per voter.

‘Second wave’

In Butuan City, vote-buying was observed outside a number of polling centers. Voters were seen gathering in groups and receiving P1,000 each from unidentified people.

A tricycle driver who was among the recipients described the money as “second-wave” vote-buying by a mayoral candidate.

On Sunday, the Buenavista police arrested a village councilor for possessing counterfeit bills allegedly used by a local mayoral candidate in vote-buying.

In Davao City, some candidates were also seen giving out cash to  voters on Sunday.

On Saturday, communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels briefly held seven traffic policemen escorting four barangay captains allegedly out to buy votes for a congressional candidate in Barangay Paquibato.

Simon Santiago, spokesman of the NPA’s Pulang Bagani Command in Southern Mindanao, said the traffic cops led by SP03 Edgardo J. Butad, were held for an hour at 4 p.m. on Saturday in the village of Paquibato for violating the NPA’s policies against vote-buying within its territories.

The statement said the policemen escorted four barangay captains allegedly carrying cash to buy votes for reelectionist 1st District Rep. Mylene Garcia.

In Mati City in Davao Oriental, a mining official was held by the police after he was allegedly seen buying votes in the village of Matiao on Sunday. The suspect was reported to be supporting a mayoral candidate.

There were also reports of vote-buying in the typhoon-hit towns of Baganga and Cateel in Davao Oriental. Aside from cash, candidates distributed galvanized iron sheets to residents whose homes were destroyed by Typhoon “Pablo” last December.—Reports from Jun Malig, Tonette Orejas, Cesar Villa, Robert Gonzaga and Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon;  Gabriel Cardinoza and Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Delfin Mallari, Shiena Barrameda, Mar Arguelles, Fernan Gianan, Madonna Virola, Romulo Ponte, Loen May Gonzales, Jerome Balinton and Marrah Erika Lesaba, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Joey A. Gabieta and Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Inquirer Visayas; and Danilo Adorador III and Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao

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