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San Juan foes swap ‘vote-buying’ raps

By: - Reporter / @jovicyeeINQ
/ 12:25 AM May 08, 2016

ALLEGATIONS of vote-buying flew thick and fast from both sides of the political fence in San Juan City, where the battle between two longtime power blocs is reaching a climax on Monday.

Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, son of reelectionist Mayor Guia Gomez, said they had received reports from their allied barangay leaders that money had changed hands for residents “not to go out and vote” on May 9.

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Ejercito said the reports had so far come from four of the city’s 21 barangays—San Perfecto, Batis, Corazon de Jesus and West Crame—which were allegedly targeted by the camp of their former allies, the Zamoras. He noted that most of San Juan’s informal settlers live there.

The alleged payment per family ranged from “P1,500 to P20,000,” according to the senator, Gomez’s son with former president and now reelectionist Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.

“More than the betrayal, what I really feel bad about is that for so many years we didn’t make the people become used to being bribed. We always stress that we have to base our [choice] of candidates on their performance,” Ejercito told reporters on Saturday.

But when asked to provide proof of his allegations, Ejercito said they were still “gathering” evidence since the supposed cash handouts happened within properties owned by the Zamoras.

Vice Mayor Francis Zamora is challenging Gomez for the mayoralty. His father, reelectionist Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, faces Ejercito’s cousin, Jana Ejercito, in the battle for a House seat.

Reached for comment, the younger Zamora not only denied Ejercito’s allegations but also shot back at the senator and his mother. “It’s so easy for him to make up stories. That’s part of their dirty strategy; they would do something bad and pin the blame on us,” he told the Inquirer.

It was Gomez’s camp who first engaged in vote-buying when they recently gathered people to have their biometrics taken at City Hall and various barangays, he said.

Zamora said the residents were given “P500” each and then told that Gomez’s leaders would know if they voted for her.

“Of course, the uninformed would believe that. And that tactic would ensure votes for them,” Zamora said.

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The mayor’s camp earlier maintained that the biometrics collection Zamora talked about was conducted only to update the local government’s database, since it may still contain the names of senior citizens who are already deceased but still listed as beneficiaries of City Hall projects for the elderly.

“If you’re bribed, just take it,” Ejercito said in a message to San Juan voters. “But vote for the one you believe in and the one who truly cares. Remember that if you choose those who will buy your vote, they will recoup whatever they spent once they’re in position.”

Zamora, meanwhile, said the city’s voters should not be “threatened and pressured.”

On Thursday, the local Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) community endorsed the candidacy of Gomez, vice mayoral contender Janella Estrada and Representative Zamora.
In the 2013 elections, the influential INC also backed Gomez and the Zamora father and son, when all was still well between the two families.

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