He has no regular job, and so does his wife Linda. They are supporting three children who are still in the elementary level. The older one, a teenager, was forced to go to Manila to work as fish ball vendor.
Essentially, life for the Dastas family is difficult.
But today, the 42-year old father looks very excited. He and his wife will have a job, except that it will only last for a day.
The husband and wife are among the less than 300 poor villagers tapped by a politician to protect his votes on Monday in one of the city’s 27 barangays.
It will be Election Day, and for Dastas, and tens of thousands across the country, it’s an opportunity to make money.
“I and my wife will serve as volunteers for a mayoral candidate. I did not have second thoughts when a coordinator approached us,” he told MindaNews in the vernacular.
As a volunteer, Dastas would be paid P200 for the job that will start at 6 a.m. and end at 5 p.m., aside from the free meals and snacks. His function is to ensure that his principal would not be cheated outside the polling precinct.
The amount would be spent for foods like rice, sardines and dried fish that would allow the Dastas family the chance to escape hunger for a few days.
He should have been paid P400 had he agreed to be a poll watcher for the politician. Poll watchers will be inside the precinct once the counting of votes start at 3 p.m.
“I and my wife decided that we will not act as poll watchers since it will make us awake overnight. Nobody will be with the children” Dastas said.
In the last elections, he had served as poll watcher for the same politician. “It’s hard and exhausting since you have to see to it that the votes are counted rightly.”
Unfortunately, the pay in the last elections in the amount of P200 came two weeks after the polling day.
“We hope it will not be repeated this time. We were promised the pay would be a day after the elections. But I’m not really sure if it will be fulfilled,” Dastas said.
On Saturday night, Dastas disclosed that a supporter of a rival candidate approached him and offered a higher pay if he agreed to switch sides.
“I turned it down although the offer is tremendously bigger. Four hundred [pesos] for a volunteer and P1,000 for a poll watcher,” he said.
The mayoral race in the city is between incumbent Mayor Fernando Miguel and Vice Mayor Jose Ledda, a lawyer.
Meanwhile, South Cotabato police director Senior Supt. Robert Kiunisala called on the public to be extra vigilant on Monday to ensure credible and honest elections.
He said the police are on high alert also for possible bomb attacks during Election Day.
Dr. Edgardo Sandig, provincial health officer, urged candidates to accept the decision of the voters.