BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/26 October) – Vote-buying dominated the conduct of Monday’s Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections in parts of the Caraga Region.
Killings, massive vote-buying, intimidation and “hoarding” of voters on the eve of election day were reported in some areas of Agusan del Sur, Surigao City, Surigao del Norte, Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Sur and this city.
In some areas, polling had to be postponed owing to the delayed arrival of election materials.
But Chief Supt. Reynaldo S. Rafal, Caraga’s police regional director said that the conduct of election in the region was “orderly and generally peaceful”.
He said the presence of at least two police officers in every polling center as part of their peacekeeping operation deterred violence.
“Walang malakihang problema (no big problems), except for minor problems, like delayed distribution of ballot boxes and other election supplies to polling centers, but it was immediately acted upon by the Comelec (Commission on Elections.” Rafal said in an interview with a local radio station.
Earlier, the Comelec and the police identified 32 towns in the region’s four provinces as areas of “immediate concern”.
Closely watched by the police were Carmen, Tubay and Buenavista in Agusan del Norte; Sibagat, Esperanza, La Paz, San Francisco, Prosperidad, Rosario, Sta. Josefa, Trento, Veruela, Loreto, Bunawan, San Luis, and Talacogon, in Agusan del Sur; Carascal, Tagbina, Hinatuan, Lingig, and Madrid, all in Surigao del Sur; Bacuag, Dapa, Gigaquit, Sison, Claver, Malimono, Alegria and Taganaan, in Surigao del Norte; and Libjo and Loreto, both of Dinagat Islands.
But on the eve of Election Day, unidentified gunmen shot to death a candidate for barangay kagawad in Lingig, Surigao del Sur while riding a vehicle for still unknown reasons.
Police identified the victim as Eduardo Tapder, 48, a candidate for barangay kagawad in Barangay Mahayahay, Lingig.
Initial reports reaching the police regional office here on Monday said the victim was riding a van at around 9:00 p.m. when shot.
Tapder reportedly sustained several gunshot wounds in various parts of the body and was rushed to the Andres Soriano Hospital in Bislig City where he was declared dead two hours later.
On Saturday, a town councilor was also killed in San Miguel, Surigao del Sur by a still unknown assailant at 6 pm. Valentin Campos was shot in the head.
The government-run Philippine Information Agency (PIA) in Agusan del Sur reported that vote-buying in the gold- rich municipality of Rosario, reached P1,000 per voter. But it added that on the eve of election day the amount just ranged between P20 and P50.
Massive vote-buying was also reported in Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur. According to the PIA, the going rate in a barangay in Surigao City was P500 per voter. It cited an anonymous who claimed to have received a total of P1, 350.00 since Saturday.
In Butuan City’s 36 urban barangays, vote-buying would range from P50 to P100 and even P500 per voter for the post of barangay chair and P20 for barangay kagawad.
In Barangay Golden Ribbon, one of the urban barangays, vote-buying for the SK chair post would reach P1000.
Mariano, 50, resident of Barangay Maon, said he received a total amount of P950 from three candidates for barangay chair and 40 bets for barangay kagawad.
Mariano, who requested to hide his family name, said he received the money on Sunday and Monday.
In Magallanes, Agusan del Norte, the post of barangay chair fetched a price of P200 and that of kagawad between P20 and P50.
An electrician in Barangay Sto. Niño in Magallanes who requested anonymity said he received a total amount of P800 from a candidate for barangay chair and from candidates for kagawad.
“Ang akong asawa gipalit dayon og bugas imbis nga akoa igasto sa pakig-inum (My wife immediately bought rice instead of spending it for my drinking spree)”, he told MindaNews.
Some 40 youths in Buenavista, Agusan del Norte were reportedly “hoarded” in a beach resort in Carmen town on the eve of election day allegedly by a candidate for SK chair in Barangay 2, Poblacion.
Buenavista Councilor Victoria Nakila alleged that one Cymatrex Atasan was responsible for “hiding” the youths. She said the number was more than half of the registered voters for the SK poll in Barangay 2.
Senior Inspector Artemio Suarez, Buenavista police chief, said the youths were later “released” on Election Day. He said he has not received any complaint related to the incident.
Meanwhile, elections in at least nine barangays in two towns of Surigao del Sur had to be postponed due to delayed arrival of election materials.
Francisco Pobe, Commission on Election regional director for Caraga, said elections in four far-flung villages of San Miguel were postponed to Oct. 26 since the ballots and other supplies only arrived late Sunday afternoon.
Pobe said it would take one and a half days to travel by motorboat and then on foot to reach the four barangays which he did not identify.
San Miguel, an interior town in Surigao del Sur, has a total of 19,346 registered voters distributed across 18 barangays.
In San Agustin town, voting in five out of 13 barangays were reset to Oct. 27 due to lack of official ballots.
Alma Acosta, Surigao del Sur’s election officer, reported that 3,752 ballots intended for San Agustin were “mis-delivered” to El Salvador town in Misamis Oriental on the eve of Election Day
“We have already informed Manila about the additional ballots and the resetting of the elections,” Pobe said in an interview. (Alden Pantaleon/MindaNews)