MANILA, MAY 13, 2013
(INQUIRER) By Philip C. Tubeza - How much is a Filipino’s vote worth these days?

According to the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), candidates are offering up to P3,500 for a single vote in Ilocos Norte, P3,000 in neighboring Ilocos Sur, P2,000 in Zamboanga Sibugay, and P100 in Tawi-Tawi.

In a letter sent to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday, Namfrel chair Corazon de la Paz-Bernardo said reports from the group’s volunteers showed that vote-buying—either with cash, groceries, and even farm implements—is expected to intensify as Election Day nears, with some candidates even resorting to “bidding” to corner votes.

Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr.’s advice to voters: Take the money and junk the candidates.

“Take it but junk those who give you money. That’s the only way to do it so that the next time these people will not give away money because they know they will lose,” Brillantes said in an interview on Friday.

The Comelec tried to fight vote-buying by prohibiting bank withdrawals in excess of P100,000 and carrying cash worth more than P500,000, but President Benigno Aquino III rejected the strategy on Thursday, saying it was bad for the economy, and the Supreme Court, acting on a petition brought by bankers, stopped it on Friday and called for oral arguments.

Brillantes said vote-buying had become more rampant because politicians had fewer means to “manipulate” the vote after the automation of elections in 2010.

Voters expect money

He said the Comelec might ask Congress later to pass legislation that would authorize the election watchdog to impose a “money ban” during elections to prevent vote-buying.

Bernardo said that while many voters expect to be given cash, she said people in one “conservative” community in Tawi-Tawi do return the money if they eventually do not vote for the candidates who gave them cash.

“People themselves expect money to be given to them, causing some parties to engage in a kind of ‘bidding,’ and enticing voters with higher amounts,” Bernardo said, quoting a report from Albay province.

“Vote-buying is expected to be more pervasive one to two days before the voting,” Bernardo said.

And the amounts the candidates are giving away are expected to increase as the actual balloting nears, she said.

Sample ballots are now being distributed along with P100, she added.

Church protests

In Cagayan province, the bailiwick of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, candidates are reportedly offering P1,000 to P5,000 for votes, according to Catholic priest Robert Reyes.

Money is believed to flow at meetings to which politicians running for office herd village officials, what Reyes called the “dirty” and “ugly” face of politics in the province.

The Catholic Church is leading the fight against vote-buying in Cagayan, mounting today a two-day campaign for the rejection of money politics.

“On May 11 and 12, the people of Cagayan will flex their physical and moral muscles for a vigorous and final push for deep and genuine change through the electoral process,” said Reyes, who will join residents of the province in running and biking while calling on the public to protect the sanctity of the ballot against money politics.

Leni Robredo complains

In Naga City, congressional candidate Leni Robredo, widow of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, filed disqualification charges on Friday against her rival, Nelly Villafuerte, and her husband, Rep. Luis R. Villafuerte, for alleged vote-buying.

In her complaint filed in the Comelec regional office in Naga, Robredo alleged that Representative Villafuerte gave voters money to convince them to vote for his wife, an act that she said violated the provisions of the election code on vote-buying.

Robredo submitted to the Comelec videos of the alleged vote-buying to support her charges against the Villafuertes.


She asked the Comelec to disqualify the Villafuertes from the election and exclude their names from the canvassing of votes.

The Inquirer tried but failed yesterday to reach the Villafuertes for comment.

In her letter to the Comelec, Bernardo said that vote-buying had become so common that it is considered a more pressing issue by voters compared to questions about the credibility of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

Bernardo said some voters willingly give their names to the barangay leaders, “who also possess copies of the computerized voter list, to make sure that they will receive money.”

“Candidates normally say that their money came from sponsors or from friends, although some suspect the money came from government funds,” she saidd.

Bernardo said that Namfrel volunteers in Albay asked voters if they had been offered money for their votes and 60 percent answered in the affirmative. All of those surveyed reported that they had heard instances of vote-buying.

“In the municipality of Daraga, amounts range from P100 to P500 per voter and a sample ballot is usually stapled to the money,” Bernardo said.

Opposition vote-buying

“In one municipality, it is the opposition who engages in vote-buying. Voters are given P100 each. In some places, candidates for councilor give money only to enough number of voters that could ensure them a seat,” she said.

“They also use the list of voters and go from house to house. Money is put in an envelope, which bears the name of the candidate they are supposed to vote for,” she said.

Bernardo said that in Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur, vote-buying is done through politicians and ward leaders.

In Aurora province, voters are enticed with money “as high as P1,200” to vote for “candidates [who belong to] a political dynasty,” Bernardo said.

“Incumbents are employing a large number of coordinators in the barangay; and jobs, reportedly intended to entice voters, financed by the municipal and provincial government, have been handed out,” she said.

“(In) Abra, Albay, Antique, Eastern Samar, Mountain Province, Ilocos Norte and Lanao del Norte, they expect vote-buying to be more rampant as voting day draws closer,” Bernardo said.

House-to-house buying

Bernardo said those buying votes in Cagayan go house to house and pay as much as P1,000 to P1,500 per person while groceries and other goods are given during campaign rallies.

She said groceries were also distributed in Eastern Samar, Rizal, Surigao del Sur and Negros Oriental, and reported that vote-buying was also rampant in Guimaras.

“Either no one reports it or no one ever gets caught when these are reported to the police,” Bernardo said.

In Ilocos Norte, three candidates from a political party went house to house and each of them gave away P300 per voter, she said.

“(People) who (bought) from a store [all paid with] P200 bills. When queried why they were all buying with P200 bills, (they) replied that it was given to them by someone,” Bernardo said.

Signed receipts

She said money was being distributed “along with a sample ballot” and the recipients were being asked “to sign a receipt so that the candidate could trace if their coordinators indeed distributed the money.”

“Sometimes coordinators force people to accept the money,” she said. “The highest amount given to voters by a mayoral candidate is P3,000.”

In Ilocos Sur, barangay captains are usually tasked to distribute the money, although members of the Sangguniang Kabataan are also involved. Bernardo said P1,000 to P3,500 are being offered for votes in a mayoral race.

In Malabon, voters are offered free entrance to a swimming pool, while candidates in Manila give away sidecars, Bernardo said.

“Police would not reprimand sidecar operators that have tarpaulins and other election propaganda materials. Canned goods and rice are also handed out to voters,” she said. With reports from Melvin Gascon, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Juan Escandor Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon

Reports of vote-buying pour in Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:57 am | Sunday, May 12th, 2013

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga—Police in Candaba, Pampanga, on Saturday filed a complaint against an election coordinator in what is believed to be the first vote-buying case brought by the police in at least 20 years.

The case against Apolinario Cruz, a coordinator for a mayoral candidate who was caught handing out white envelopes containing three P100 bills each, sends a strong signal that the police are serious in the campaign against vote-buying, said Senior Supt. Oscar Albayalde, Pampanga police director.

Election offenses under the Omnibus Election Code are punishable with imprisonment of not less than a year but not more than six years.

In Nueva Ecija, police arrested a village chief in the Science City of Muñoz for distributing two kilos of rice each to residents inside the Bical barangay hall on Friday.

Supt. Crizaldo Nieves, the Nueva Ecija police director, said the police had received reports of massive vote-buying going on in various towns in Nueva Ecija. He said long lines of people were reported to be waiting for their turn to receive money from ward leaders of the candidates. The amount being handed out ranged from P500 to P2,000, he said.

In Baguio City, a rival of reelectionist Mayor Mauricio Domogan has asked the Commission on Elections to disqualify the mayor for vote-buying, citing an online video which allegedly showed money being distributed to government scholars.

Domogan’s opponent, Jose Molintas of the Liberal Party, also accused the mayor of using government property, a section of Burnham Park, as his campaign headquarters.

In Ifugao, reelectionist Rep. Teodoro Baguilat Jr. filed a disqualification case against his rival, former Rep. Solomon Chungalao, also for vote-buying, citing the distribution to supporters of membership cards doubling as “discount cards.”

Baguilat said a youth leader had testified in an affidavit that Chungalao’s discount cards granted cardholders access to gasoline for motorcycles, computer services and grocery items.

In Ilocos Sur, Kristine Gapusan, a candidate for mayor in Sta. Maria town, filed a disqualification case against incumbent Mayor Edgar Florendo in the Comelec’s Manila office for allegedly giving money to supporters. The alleged vote-buying was recorded on YouTube.

Ilocos Sur Rep. Ryan Luis Singson, who is running for governor, and his brother, former Rep. Ronald Singson, who is running for his old seat, belied the latest disqualification case filed by Liberal Party gubernatorial candidate Roque Verzosa Jr., who accused the brothers of vote-buying.

Leaders of candidates and political parties in the Visayas were reportedly visiting the different barangays, either handing out money to voters or promising to give them money in exchange for their votes.

The amount varied “from a low of P20 per voter to as high as P3,000.” It was said that some candidates were willing to give as much as P20,000 if a family had three voters.

Voters are promised a bigger amount after voting, especially if they could present proof that they indeed voted for the candidate.

In Iloilo, voters in the second district were promised P300 to P500 each, and as much as P1,500 in Iloilo City.

“That’s only for the first wave. It will depend if their opponents will match or top the payment,” said a voter, adding that even candidates for municipal councilor were offering money for votes.

Nor does buying votes involve only cash. Candidates and those campaigning for them, even for some party-list groups, offer each voter P300 with a bucket of groceries.

In Negros Occidental, a barangay councilor said that since April 6, politicians had been providing a weekly allowance to officials in his village and leaders who control a number of families in the village.

Barangay officials usually receive P500 a week while family leaders get P300.

In Leyte, Domingo Abiertas, Barangay 96 chair in Tacloban City, told dyVL Radio how coordinators acting for several candidates had gone to their barangay hall to inform them that they had something for the voters.

While vote-buying is an election offense, he said he could not stop the coordinators as the people expected to receive money during elections.

Minda, a fruit vendor in Tacloban City, said she accepts money from the candidates because it is only during elections that she can get “even” with the politicians.

“Whoever wins, corruption will still be there, so I might as well accept money from them,” she said.

In Negros Oriental, one provincial candidate is said to be offering P3,000 to every voter.

Kulas (not his real name) said he would get even more than P3,000 if he could prove that he had voted for the candidate. The proof would be a photo of his ballot taken with his cellular phone.

But Juvenal Tuale, the Comelec acting provincial supervisor, said voters would have difficulty providing such evidence as cameras are not allowed inside the voting precincts. Reports from Tonette Orejas and Anselmo Roque, Inquirer Central Luzon; Frank Cimatu, Leoncio Balbin Jr. and Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Carmel Matus, Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Carla P. Gomez, Joey A. Gabieta, Carine Asutilla, Veda Bongcalos, Inquirer Visayas

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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