Votes come cheap now.
Candidates in this Monday’s barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections have began enticing the electorate to vote for them, with small denomination bills as low as P20 now being given out in a number of areas in Cebu.
“Your future is worth more than this,” quipped Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña.
The mayor was reacting to Cebu Daily News photos of P20 to P50 bills that were pinned on sample ballots with the name of the candidates for the barangay and youth polls.
Even if vote-buying is an election offense and despite calls for clean and honest elections from the Commission on Elections (Comelec), law enforcement authorities and religious groups, incidents of vote-buying have been reported in the town of Moalboal in the south, Mandaue City, and Consolacion in the north.
Jane (not her real name), 22, said that she and the three other members of her family, who are all registered voters of Moalboal, told Cebu Daily News that they received the money on Thursday afternoon, May 10, from supporters of candidates running in their barangay.
“Sobra P200 plus to [ang gihatag] ug P50 ang ako-a ato. [Ganina] naa na say nangursunada [nga kandidato] gyud ug adto sa balay. (Over P200 was given and P50 of the amount was my share. (Earlier today, one candidate even came to my home bringing bribe money.)” she told Cebu Daily News in a Facebook chat.
Jane, a first time voter in the village polls, vowed that her vote could not be bought.
“Wa man ma-change kung kinsa akong [tinood nga] botohan [sa eleksyon]. (Whoever is my true choice for the election has not changed.)” Jane reasoned out.
While it was true that they did receive the money, she said vote-buyers could not influence them, as voters are already intelligent enough to know their rights and decide on their choices.
The tactics of the candidates and their supporters, she said, was to conduct a house-to-house interviews, assess the number of registered voters in a household, and thereafter hand out the aggregate value of the bribe.
“Ang akong papa man ilang pangitaon. Unya, magdala na na sila og kwarta. (They would often look first for my father. They were already bringing money with them.)” she said.
Jane said this has been a “systematized way” in their barangay: to buy the voters’ support and eventually their decision on who to elect.
According to Jane, she also felt sorry for the candidates for wasting their money on vote-buying.
“Para nako bitaw kay maluoy kos mga manghatag og kwarta kay masayang man gud. Ang mga tawo kaila na man sa mga nilansar. Ug kung di kaila, kay ilhon man gyud og kinsa ug asa dapit gapuyo,” she said.
(For me, I pity those who shell out money because it goes down the drain. The electorate already know the candidates. And if they don’t, they will find ways to know these candidates and where they live.)
In Lapu-Lapu City, siblings Maria and Charmaine (not their real names), have different experiences and opinions on the acts of palm-greasing during polls.
Charmaine told CDN that she had been receiving bribe money since she started exercising her right to suffrage.
“Wa pa may kisaw (There is no sign of money being passed around yet),” Charmaine said, but she was anticipating it would happen anytime soon.
When asked whether or not she will receive bribes if offered, she answered that she would.
But Maria, 39, who is also a mother of two, refused to sell her vote and had been resisting vote-buying in the past elections.
“Sus, unsaon man na nako ang tag P50 ra oy? Wa ko [midawat] kay ma-issue ta ana. (What will I do with P50 only? I refused to receive because that would only get me into trouble),” Maria rationalized.
While a registered voter, Maria said she might even decide not to cast her vote on Monday because she felt that the candidates in her barangay will not help her if they will win anyway.
In a barangay in Mandaue City, political leaders were called to the residence of a candidate for barangay councilor at lunchtime on Saturday, May 12, according to a source who was privy to the meeting.
The mother of the candidate met with the leaders and appealed that they make sure that her son, a reelectionist barangay councilman wins the election.
“Siguroha lang ninyo si (name withheld). Bahala og kinsa inyong barangay kapitan (Just make sure my son wins. It does not matter who will you choose for barangay captain),” the mother told the leaders during the meeting.
The candidate’s mother later on handed a bundle consisting of 20 pieces of P100 cash to each of the leaders who were present for distribution to selected voters in their area.
Each of the voter was to get P100. Another bundle consisting of five pieces of P100 was given to one leader for her and the four other members of her family.
Omnibus Election Code violation
Cebu City North District Election Officer Gallardo Escobar, dismayed by the incidents of vote buying, yesterday urged the voters to file charges against these candidates.
“If candidates bribe, it means that they have violated the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines. Therefore, the appropriate action is to file a case,” Escobar said.
He reiterated, however, that complainants should be responsible enough to stand in a court trial because if not, the complaint becomes useless.
Comelec-Central Visayas Regional Director Veronico Petalcorin, for his part, said they have received reports of vote-buying, but they could not do anything about it unless a complaint is submitted to his office.
He said election officials in the towns and cities of Cebu were also not able to closely monitor these incidents since they were busy preparing for this Monday’s twin polls.
He said it would also be difficult to pin down candidates engaged in vote-buying since they normally would do that when authorities were not looking.
In the end, he said, it would be up to the voters if they would be willing to sell their votes for a few pesos.
“Kung ang mga botante prinsipyado, bisan pag pila ka gatos, pila ka libo, kung unsa ilang gituhuan mao gihapon na ilang botaran (If the voter is principled, even if the bribe will be in hundreds or in thousands of pesos, he will still only vote for the one he believed in),” said Petalcorin. /Marthy John Lubiano, PIT AB Comm Intern
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