WIDESPREAD VOTE-BUYING MARS POLLS
BARANGAY AND SK ELECTIONS
Open and brazen vote-buying was reported in practically all parts of Cebu yesterday, amid a few election-related violence in what police and election authorities concluded as a “generally peaceful” barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.
The election campaign might have ended with only a handful of heated confrontation among opposing candidates but what happened instead was a different kind of war: Who could pay the most to get the voter’s vote.
Commission on Elections in Central Visayas (Comelec-7) Director Veronico Petalcorin, speaking to Cebu Daily News after voting centers closed at 3 p.m., admitted that vote-buying was an “open secret” in yesterday’s election.
However, despite numerous posts on social media that showed sample ballots of candidates stapled with paper bills, Petalcorin said they could not just file charges against the candidates without formal complainants.
In Bantayan Island, however, seven persons were arrested past 10 p.m. on Sunday, the eve of the elections, for allegedly engaging in vote-buying.
Seized from the suspects were 19 white envelopes containing P50 each and sample ballots with the names of candidates in Barangay Botigues.
Chief Insp. Florendo Fajardo, chief of the Bantayan Police Station, said they would file charges against the suspects for violating the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines.
The suspects — Junrey Daruca, 31; Andrew Cesa, 21; Roger Cañete, 24; Ronel Ejorango, 37; Jomer Ejorango, 31; Jessril Ejorango, 29; and Norgeil Guzat, 21, — were visiting houses in Barangay Botigues to hand over envelopes when caught.
In Barangay Pajac, Lapu-Lapu City, police seized bills of different denominations amounting to P210 but no one was arrested.
“It would have been good if those who received money will file a complaint against those candidates,” Petalcorin said.
“We want to show these candidates that we can put them in jail,” Petalcorin added.
Petalcorin said they had filed cases in the past, but none prospered because of lack of witnesses.
He said the witnesses tended to abandon the cases after a year of trial when they would already be reconciled with their opponent parties.
“We need the cooperation of the community because the money cannot speak by itself that it had been used to buy votes,” said Petalcorin.
Under the Omnibus Election Code, those found guilty of buying and selling votes could face a prison term of one to six years and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
In a village in Mandaue City, vote-buying was done in the open, with candidates from opposing camps or their “sitio (sub-village) leaders” distributing money ranging from P50 to P150 per voter.
In most instances, the peso bills were not even placed inside envelops but clipped or stapled on the candidates’ sample ballots.
“Pila man mo kabook? (How many are you?)” asked a candidate for barangay councilman in Mandaue City before handing out P150 for every qualified voter in the household.
The candidate, accompanied by a barangay worker, began doing the rounds of households in the area at around 1 a.m., or six hours before the voting precincts opened.
“Karon pa man ni nahitabo nga daghan kaayong kwarta ang ilang gipang hatag (This is the first time that so much money were given away),” said one resident who received money from opposing camps.
Another resident, Anna (not her real name), said she got at least P450 in cash from both camps.
“Ako rang gidawat kay nang hatag man. Koprason ra na ang ilang ihatag pero ni botar gihapon ko sa akong gusto nga mga kandidato (I accepted the cash because it was given to me. It was harvest time but I still voted for my choice),” she added.
Other residents, instead of shunning the vote-buying practice, even complained that they got less than what they were supposed to receive because the money was pocketed by the candidates’ designated coordinator in their barangay.
The barangay and SK polls were supposed to be non-partisan but Carcar City Mayor Nicepuro Apura got embroiled in alleged vote-buying incident.
Lawyer Rex Fernandez said his client Dr. Loufel
Aleonar, 41, the candidate for barangay captain of Barangay Poblacion 1, Carcar City, would be filing today electioneering charges against Apura and several barangay election candidates.
This after Aleonar claimed to have caught the camp of rival candidate for barangay captain Tazar Rojo
allegedly distributing money with their sample ballots to the residents of Sitio Maximina, Barangay Poblacion 1 on May 9, with the mayor present in the gathering.
Aleonar yesterday said she immediately requested for police assistance and rushed to the area when she learned of the alleged distribution of money in Sitio Maximina. She said they were recording video while approaching the area when the group of people saw them arriving in the company of the police and began to scamper away, leaving behind their leaflets stapled with P100 and P20 bills.
But while others ran away, Apura confronted them, questioning their presence of Rojo camp’s gathering.
PO2 Celso Yanong, desk officer of the Carcar Police Station, yesterday affirmed they sent policemen to the area where the alleged vote-buying was reported but no arrest could be made since no one was caught in the act.
Apura, reached for comment yesterday, denied the voting-buying incident and said he was ready to face the charge. He also insisted there was nothing wrong with him joining the gathering.
“Unsa ma’y dautan anang naa ka sa pundok, duna bay balaod nagdili nato ana (What’s wrong if I am in a gathering of people? Is there a law prohibiting us that?),” the mayor said.
Meanwhile, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in Central Visayas (LTFRB-7) yesterday apprehended at least three out-of-route public utility jeepneys (PUJs) allegedly ferrying voters who were being herded to their own precincts or to areas other than their voting precincts.
LTFRB-7 Director Ahmed Cuizon said two PUJs, with routes Oppra to Colon and Urgello to Colon, were allegedly fetching voters near the polling places in City Central School and Cebu Normal University yesterday morning.
Another PUJ, with Urgello to Colon route, was caught along Osmeña Boulevard in Cebu City in the afternoon.
Cuizon said jeepneys ferrying passengers not on their designated routes could be an indication of the “hakot” practice, or transporting voters from other places to the polling centers.
Cuizon said the drivers and the operators would be summoned for an investigation.
“Once they inform us which candidate or political group hired them, we will file a report to the Comelec for its information and appropriate actions,” he said.
Cebu ProvinciaI Election Officer Lawyer Lionel Marco Castillano affirmed that giving free transportation and food to voters during the election is prohibited. /With Doris C. Bongcac, Benjie O. Talisic, Norman V. Mendoza, Jessa Mae O. Sotto and Ador Vincent Mayol
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