Barangay bets lure voters with free rice
LUCENA CITY—With the prevailing high cost of rice, candidates in the coming barangay (village) elections are using the staple as a primary campaign tool.
In the coastal village of Dalahican in this city, candidates have been distributing free rice since early this month to entice voters to support them.
“With the high price of rice in the market, a few kilos of free rice from candidates are like manna from heaven,” a fisher’s wife said.
Some candidates, she said, were giving away 4 kilos of rice while some offered 6 kilos and two small cans of sardines.
In some parts of the city, the distribution of free rice has also become a prime campaign strategy among candidates.
It was learned that the ongoing trend among camps of opposing candidates is to outdo each other in terms of rice quality. “As elections get closer, some of the candidates will soon be distributing special varieties like ‘sinandomeng’ and ‘dinorado.’ The voters will be lucky,” one recipient noted.
Under election rules, candidates are prohibited from donating cash or kind during the election period. The ban also applies to candidates’ relatives and campaign staff.
Fr. Robert Reyes assailed the “vote buying” practice of politicians using the primary food of the Filipinos. “It is a criminal act and a desecration of rice. It is a double crime against the people and our nature,” Reyes said over phone.
He lambasted village politicians who were taking advantage of the high cost of rice and the depressed situation of poor Filipinos.
“The barangay candidates are no different from high government officials involved in the pork barrel scam. They both feast on the misery of the people,” he said.
He blamed the government for the controversial rice situation in the country.
“The state should not allow the commercialization of rice. The government should be the one to distribute rice for free to our poor citizens or sell it at the lowest price possible,” said Reyes, also known as the “running priest” for initiating runs to raise public awareness on social and political issues.
The continued rise in the price of rice in the market has become a controversial issue among government policy makers.
Data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics revealed that as of the second week of September, the retail prices of regular milled and well-milled rice, at P36.1 and P39.3 per kilo, respectively, are almost P4 higher than the prices over the same period in 2012.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has repeatedly given assurances that the government is on track in its rice sufficiency target this year, which is about 20-million metric tons.