Almost all pols cheated, bought votes in polls

"The credibility of every winning candidate will be tainted because of the massive vote-buying and cheating we witnessed in the last elections," Ermin Pimentel, Namfrel chief in Cagayan de Oro said.

He said reports made by their volunteers indicated that all candidates engaged in the massive buying of votes and other forms of cheating, including disenfranchisement of hundreds of voters.

"Winnability depends on how much was the amount paid for the vote. The candidate who gives the bigger amount, wins the elections," Pimentel said.

Father Nathan Lerio, PPRCV head in the city, said politicians have discarded the old  forms of vote-buying like "Kadena de Amor" and have adopted newer methods.

In lieu of the old "kadena de Amor," Lerio said they learned candidates used phone cameras to ensure that the voters they bought really voted for them.

"What the voter does is take a picture of his ballot and give it to the politicians as proof," he said.

Lerio said Namfrel and PPRCV volunteers noted a big number of voters bringing phone cameras inside the polling booth despite a ban by the Commission on Elections.

Lawyer Pastor Trimor Jr., of the lawyers' group, Lente, deplored the way politicians indiscriminately hired poll watchers in the guise of monitoring the elections.

Trimor said some candidates hire as many as 100 watchers per precinct who would surely vote for them. He said while the Comelec allows only two watchers per candidate in the  precinct, the poll body was mum on how many watchers could be hired by the candidates.

"This is an ingenious way of vote-buying. It is made in the guise of hiring people to monitor the electoral proceedings at the canvassing," he said.

Namfrel and the PPRCV noted that vote-buying was especially rampant in all of the 21 towns in Misamis Oriental and several barangays in Cagayan de Oro City.

Trimor said some 200 residents from Barangay Macabalan, Cagayan de Oro City, were not able to vote because their names were not in the Comelec voters’ list.

"When I complained to the Comelec, they told me that it is a national phenomenon and there was nothing they could do," Trimor said.

He said they also found seals in many ballot boxes already broken when these were brought to various canvassing centers.

Because of the rampant cheating and vote-buying, Namfrel said the credibility of all winning candidates was in doubt. "Anyone who won in the last elections will suffer a serious credibility problem. Everyone can draw conclusion that the candidate won because he or she cheated," Pimentel said.

Namfrel closed down its tabulation Thursday night after it got 94 percent of the Election Returns from Cagayan de Oro's 1,157 polling precincts.