Bets in barangay, youth polls warned: No free food, no free rides
DAGUPAN CITY — Serving soup, arroz caldo and porridge (lugaw) on the night before May 14, election day, is a form of vote-buying, and is punishable by law, an election officer here warned.
Marino Salas, Pangasinan provincial election supervisor, said the poll body would monitor all forms of vote-buying, which do not always involve cash transactions.
In previous elections, cauldrons lined the streets in villages of Pangasinan, which has one of the country’s largest voting populations pegged this year at more than 2 million.
The cooking is done right in the open where residents eat and discuss the hottest issue of the day—the elections and the candidates.
Rice, chicken and pasta, which were used for these meals, were often “donated” by the candidates for village and youth councils and the “cooks” and “servers” were supporters of candidates.
“The meals brought happy moments as we shared the soup or arroz caldo,” said a village campaign leader who had benefited from free food in previous elections.
“It calmed our nerves and staved off nervousness as we waited for election day,” he said.
The practice might appear innocent but was “comparable to directly giving money and promising accommodations by the candidates should they win,” Salas said.
Also considered as a form of vote-buying was libreng sakay, when candidates ferry voters from their residence to the voting centers, he said, particularly if the vehicles used were village service vehicles.
Salas said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) had asked the police not to allow village officials to lend service vehicles to candidates.
The use of private vehicles for the same task was also prohibited, he said.
Poll officials are also watching out for voters or poll watchers wearing shirts which are identified with candidates.
“Even if the shirts do not bear the candidates’ names, wearing them is still a form of campaigning and is not allowed during election day,” Salas said.
“For instance, a team used pink shirts with their names during the campaign period. They are not allowed to use pink shirts on May 14,” Salas said.
Currently, no village or town had been listed as a hot spot but the Comelec was prepared for conflicts that might arise in many villages because the “playground of candidates is small,” he said.
“I cautioned [the police and the military]. Once the filing of certificates of candidacy is over, the political climate could change once people become aware who are seeking village posts,” Salas said.
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