SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/10 May) — With only a few days left before election day, vote-buying has been reported in this city and in various towns across Surigao del Norte with the amounts ranging from as low as P10 to as high as P5,000 depending on the contested positions.
Surigao folk call money used to buy votes “tili-tili,” which literally means drizzle or light rain.
Twenty- and 50-peso bills at 20 and 50 have reportedly circulated in different villages in the city and in the province through purok leaders or “coordinators” who serve as bagmen of politicians.
A 26-year-old voter of Barangay Luna, Surigao City said he had received so far a total of P540 and five boxes of match. Two candidates for councilor gave him P20 each, and two others gave him P50 each.
The same voter received P100 from a candidate for mayor, 350 from a congressional candidate and five pieces of matchbox from an aspirant for the provincial board.
He said the coordinators came to his house and handed the money stapled to a paper bearing the candidates’ names and their faces. Before leaving, he added, they would say, “Ajaw kalimte sija sa eleksyon” (Don’t forget him/her this election).
The source said he has become jobless after his work contract with a mining company expired last year. But he admitted that even if he has a job he would still accept money from politicians, saying it would just be pocketed by the coordinators if he refused.
“Some leaders will keep the money to themselves, they will not distribute all of it,” the source, who was a coordinator during the 2010 elections, said.
He said he expects bigger amounts with one party reportedly offering at least a thousand pesos to voters who would vote its candidates for governor, congressman and mayor.
He said candidates who resort to vote-buying has a big chance of winning even if they have no clear platforms and programs.
“How many city councilors and provincial board members will just sit and stay silent? There are many of them, and they can’t bring anything good for the people of Surigao,” he said.
A resident in Pilar town in Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte said a candidate for mayor gave him P 5,000 last week.
“That’s cash inside an envelope and each voter will have it,” he said, adding he has not spent the money yet but he was planning to use it for his children’s school needs.
“I heard that his two opponents will give P2,000. But I learned that if that’s the case the candidate who gave P5,000 will give an additional P2,000,” the source said.
First time-voter Jason Plaza, 20, of Barangay Washington in Surigao City said he was offered P1,350 by campaigners of a candidate for mayor Wednesday evening at his house. But he and other members of his family refused because they were required to show their ballots to ensure that they would really vote for that candidate.
Plaza said he will not accept it even no condition was imposed.
For city councilors and provincial board members the rate is from P10-50 per voter.
Local radio news anchor Jun Clerigo posted in his Facebook account that some voters would not leave their house because they might miss the “tili-tili.”
In Payawan, Barangay Luna, Surigao City a 25-year old voter said he waited along with bystanders at street corners until late at night for three nights hoping to receive “tili-tili.”
“We stormed him (campaigner) and took whatever amount he could give us. Sometimes I got double or triple (the usual amount) because I told him that there were other voters in the house,” he added.
No word from candidates
Incumbent Governor Sol F. Matugas is up against former governor Robert Lyndon S. Barbers for the same post.
District 1 Rep. Francisco T. Matugas is going against Gertrudes Saberon for the second time. District 2 Rep. Guillermo A. Romarate Jr. will try to foil former congressman Robert Ace S. Barbers’ comeback bid.
In Surigao City, Mayor Ernesto T. Matugas will grapple against former mayor Alfonso S. Casurra and independent candidate Christopher T. Bonite.
MindaNews asked several candidates including some of those mentioned above through text if they are giving money but no one sent a reply.
Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Rhee Timbang said vote-buying in the province of Surigao del Norte has become a culture.
“This is an ordinary thing. I mean majority of the voters will receive money from candidates and majority who win are the ones who give money during elections,” he said in an interview with MindaNews.
Timbang said the diocese and the whole IFI congregation have intensified their voter’s education campaign across the province including Dinagat Islands. He said the campaign includes asking voters to not accept money from politicians.
“This vote-buying is an evil act. This is a clear violation against the will of every Surigaonon voter,” he said.
Fernando A. Almeda, Jr., president of the Coalition of Surigaonons for Good Governance-Transparency and Accountability (COSUGG-TA) condemned vote-buying as a betrayal of public trust and a prostitution of people’s will.
He said he received a lot of information that candidates from the different towns in Surigao del Norte have resorted to vote-buying.
Almeda is also the point person in Surigao City for ABS-CBN’s Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo aside from leading a Operation Kontra Hudas, a movement against vote-buying.
“Because it takes two to tango, politicians will buy votes and people will sell their votes, too.” There is no politician who will give money if the voters will not accept it.
Almeda said he and his volunteers will document the voting process including irregularities like vote-buying and vote-selling.
Asked what they will do if they catch people suspected of doing these violations, Almeda said, “We turn over to the police in the nature of citizen’s arrest.”
“If prima facie evidence is established we will deal with this high crime to the fullest limit of the law,” he said.
COSUGGTA is mainly composed of professionals and lawyers.
Atty. Irish Novern Pasco, city election supervisor, did not reply to MindaNews’ query if a person caught giving money with the name and face of a candidate attached to it can be arrested or not.
Article XXII of the Omnibus Election Code defines vote buying as giving, offering, or promising money, favors, or jobs in exchange for getting a person’s vote for the principal or causing the person to vote against somebody else. It holds criminally liable both the vote buyer and vote seller.
Persons found guilty faces a prison term of one to six years and shall be permanently barred from holding any public office as well as denied their right of suffrage. (Roel Catoto/MindaNews)