Allegations fly over vote buying
Opposing political camps in Cebu, Mandaue and Talisay cities yesterday accused each other of buying votes, as insinuated by some photos circulated through social media.
All the candidates were quick to deny the allegations.
In Cordova town on Mactan Island, Provincial Board (PB) Member Arleigh Sitoy filed a police blotter report on massive vote-buying allegedly conducted by his half-sister Vice Mayor Mary Therese “Teche” Sitoy-Cho and some Korean nationals.
Mayren Cogtas, coordinator of the “I Vote Good” campaign of Dilaab Foundation, lamented that voters generally accept money from politicians despite knowing that vote-buying is illegal.
“The reason for accepting the money was not only due to poverty but also because the voters considered the money as as form of pampasaya,” Cogtas said in a pre-election briefing at the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Election Media Center yesterday.
She said the issue is no longer how to change the mindset of the voters but how to convince politicians to stop buying votes.
In the same briefing, Cebu provincial election supervisor Eliseo Labaria said politicians turn to vote buying because they know that the vote counting machines (VCMs) could not be tampered with.
He said that while both the voter and politician could be penalized, a vote-buying case would only prosper if a verified complaint is filed.
Police, however, can immediately make an arrest if vote-buying is committed in plain view, said regional election supervisor Jose Nick Mendros.
Otherwise, a verified complaint with a sworn affidavit and evidences should be filed. Evidence includes a photo of a voter in the act of receiving money.
Fr. Carmelo Diola, Dilaab chairman, said they would have wanted the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to catch vote buyers in the act. But Labaria said they have not tried an entrapment operation yet.
Under the Omnibus Election Code, vote-buying carries a penalty of imprisonment of between one and six years.
On Facebook, photos were posted showing a Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK) sample ballot for the south district together with a P100 banknote.
A certain Oliver Pablo dela Peña also posted photos of a Team Rama “green card” with either P100 or P200 bill.
Both BO-PK and Team Rama denied the allegations of vote buying.
Mayor Rama said the people should not easily believe Facebook posts.
“Facebook? Don’t worry about it. In Facebook, it’s always a book with several faces. Those more in social media better start being social. On the ground level, we’ve never been talking about vote-buying,” he said in a phone interview.
BO-PK standard-bearer Tomas Osmeña, for his part, pointed a finger at Team Rama.
“Expect more of these gimmicks from Team Rama. Rama is afraid to face me in a debate. Maybe the coward would rather resort to dirty tricks,” he said.
In Mandaue City, photos of banknotes stapled to sample ballots of mayoralty candidates Emmarie “Lolypop” Ouano-Dizon and Luigi Quisumbing also circulated in social media.
Ouano-Dizon, who is running under One Cebu, allegedly distributed P300 in denominations of P100 while Quisumbing, a Liberal Party (LP) candidate, allegedly gave away P500.
Both Ouano-Dizon and Quisumbing said the allegations were part of a black propaganda against them.
“Black propaganda this close to Election Day is a clear sign of desperation. Social media has been especially prone to manipulation,” Quisumbing said.
Ouano-Dizon, for her part, said she was banking on the trust that the public has for the Ouano family.
“Sukad sa sinugdanan, pagsalig sa katawhan ug dili kwarta ang among gisaligan. Dili man siguro kami ang nagpasigarbo nga daghan mi ug kwarta. Ang kampo man sa among kontra,” she said.
Down south, Cebu first district Rep. Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas Jr. said the allegations against his family were clearly part of black propaganda.
“Anyone who has a printer can print names and attach money to make it appear as if it were mine. This is a foregone issue in every election. I urge them to file a complaint, and we will face them in the proper forum,” he said.
Team Alayon of the Gullas family allegedly distributed P500 (five P100 bills) to residents of Barangay Pooc and Cansojong in Talisay City.
Talisay City Vice Mayor Romeo Villarante, who is challenging reelectionist Mayor Johnny de los Reyes and former congressman Eduardo Gullas, allegedly gave P150. Villarante could not be reached for comment.
In Cordova, police chief Senior Insp. Zosimo Jabas said he received a call from incumbent Mayor Adelino Sitoy and his daughter Sitoy-Cho about armed men outside a Korean-owned spa and PB Member Arleigh Sitoy, the mayor’s son, allegedly blocking the road.
As requested by the mayor, Jabas said a team of policemen was sent to the area to prevent any untoward incidents and ensure that ingress and egress to the spa were not hampered.
He said they were not able to personally witness the PB Member’s vote-buying allegations nor the mayor’s claim of the presence of armed men in the area.
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