Vote-buying? It’s ‘sharing of blessings’
“Have you received your showers?” This has been the familiar greeting in Bohol province in the past days instead of “Hello” or “How are you?”
It happens only during the election season when candidates resort to vote-buying to win races for various positions.
In the Visayas, the going rate ranges from a low P50 per voter for a single candidate to P3,000 for a straight vote for a party slate and to P10,000 for votes of an entire family.
Elections are a traditionally volatile time in a country infamous for lax gun laws and a violent political culture, and the people have been inflamed again this year by allegations of massive corruption from the local village to presidential level.
“Vote-buying is everywhere,” Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Luie Tito F. Guia told reporters. “We are receiving reports that everything is being used to buy votes, not only money. It could be [plastic] basins, groceries.”
Such small gifts are an effective, if illegal, way for politicians to win support in a country where roughly one quarter of its 100 million people live below the poverty line.
To try to check vote-buying, the Comelec has banned mobile phones in polling places. This is so people cannot photograph their ballots to prove to vote-buyers that they cast their ballots for the right candidates.
Aside from cash, candidates are offering and giving groceries, including laundry soap, coffee and noodles. Some give money in the guise of “educational assistance.”
In Bohol, the going rate for local positions is P100 to P1,000 per voter, depending on how close the contest is perceived in a particular area.
Sometimes it’s a “package deal” for a whole family or household for as much as P3,000 to P10,000, according to voters interviewed by the Inquirer.
Maricel (not her real name), 40, a registered voter in Tagbilaran City, slept late on Thursday. She was waiting for someone who would deliver the uwan-uwan (showers).
A mother of three children, aged 3, 8 and 12, Maricel said she was not selling her vote, reasoning she would stick to her choice of candidates.
“They (candidates) are just sharing their blessings to us [and] we just received it,” she said. She showed the P740 given to her on Friday.
“It’s only during elections that we can have this big amount,” she said.
In Tagbilaran, a political party gave P200 to P500 per voter. But voters would receive more because the majority of candidates also gave P20 to P50 per voter on top of the party handout.
In Panglao town, also in Bohol, voters received at least P1,400 each on Saturday from several candidates.
“That’s for the first wave. We are expecting second wave on Sunday evening or early Monday,” said Nora, 35, a resident of Barangay Tawala.
In Balilihan and Corella towns, voters were given sachets of instant coffee, noodles, laundry soap, lighter and cash ranging from P20 to P50. Rice and liquor were also given.
Voters in Ubay town got from P20 to P300 and two bars of laundry soap.
The two dioceses of the Catholic Church in Bohol have discouraged vote-buying and vote-selling, which were rampant in the province.
Rev. Fr. Felix Warli Salise, director of the Diocese of Tagbilaran Social Action Center, said the Church was reminding parishioners to choose morally upright leaders.
In Calbayog City in Samar province, envelopes containing P100 to P3,000 and sample ballots were distributed to voters early Saturday.
In the southern area of Samar, vote-buying ranges from P1,500 to P2,000, while in island-towns, the rate rose to up to P5,000 per voter, according to voters.
Some voters have returned to their hometowns to claim the money.
Rochelle, who is working as a nanny in Calbayog, went home to the island-town of Tagapul-an upon instruction of her father because the “budget” must be claimed personally. “P5,000 is a big amount,” she said.
Some of her friends and relatives in Manila also went home with free fare, according to Rochelle. Politicians reportedly chartered buses to transport voters living outside the province.
Free boat rides were given to those coming from Cebu.
In Iloilo, some candidates have offered P3,000 to families as “educational assistance,” said Msgr. Meliton Oso, provincial coordinator of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting.
“We have received many reports. We expect the reports to increase on Sunday and Monday,” he told the Inquirer.
Candidates are giving out P500 to P1,000 per voter, depending on what position they are running for.
Lea (not her real name), a voter in Molo District in Iloilo City, said each voter in her family had received P500 from a supporter of a vice presidential candidate. She declined to identify the candidate.
The amount being given by political parties ranges from P1,500 to P3,000 for a “straight vote,” including candidates for President and Vice President and local positions.
But Roel (not real name), a pedicab driver in Pavia town in Iloilo, expected to get P300, the same amount he received in 2013.
“There’s really no tight contest and many candidates are unopposed. So the amount may be just the same or smaller,” he told the Inquirer in Hiligaynon. With a report from AFP/TVJ
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