Toothpaste sachets, boxes of matches among giveaways in barangay election campaign

KALASUNGAY, Malaybalay City (MindaNews/23 October) –  Since the start of the campaign period on October 14, Marla Belican has been giving away 11-gram sachets of toothpaste to voters. A photocopied picture of her with her name and position aspired for is taped on both sides of the pack.

In a plain shirt, old pair of pants and slightly used rubber shoes, the 40-year old Belican goes campaigning on foot, with her husband, a farmer, as spokesperson. Her husband also carries their two-year old son on piggy back.

“We always carry him because I breastfeed him,” Marla explained.

As of October 19, with four days remaining in the campaign period, Belican had finished only three of the six zones in the village.

It is the first election for barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan officials in the administration of President Benigno Aquino III. It is also the first barangay elections after the 2010 automated national and local elections in May.

In one of her campaign sorties, Belican asked a resident to allow her to sit on a bench to pacify her crying son.

As she was doing this, her husband spoke about the elections.

“She is running because she wants to serve the village,” her husband said.

“Here take this. We have nothing else to leave you,” he said to an elderly woman, as he handed her a sachet of toothpaste.

“This is better because you can use this,” he said.

After a few minutes of chatter, the couple shook the woman’s hands then asked to leave.

“Is anyone living there?” the husband asked, pointing to another house.

Sari-sari store owner Nardo Patoltol has not been spared. He said candidates still give him tokens.  The other day, another candidate distributed boxes of matches.

Re-electionist barangay kagawad Eric Cacay, a broadcaster of  DXIQ FM, had printed copies of his picture pasted on the cover of  the boxes.

“At least they leave some token for us to remember them,” Patoltol said.

But he lamented that other than the tokens, they leave with nothing to help him decide on who to vote for.

“I accepted the tokens, but they said nothing about their platform (in running for public office),” he added.

Other candidates who placed their educational background and some themes of their supposed platforms like “education,” “peace and order,” “livelihood” only gave book marks or just showed their faces in early morning sorties.

Belican and Cacay are two of  21 candidates for councilor in Kalasungay, a village with at least a thousand households.

Kalasungay is among 11 villages in Malaybalay City where the election of barangay chairs will be contested by at least three candidates.

Just across the street, posters of the candidates who belong to the group of the incumbent barangay chair were posted on the upper part of the façade of the Purok Center while posters of the candidates of the former barangay chair’s group, including that of Cacay’s, were pasted on a makeshift post five feet in front of the center’s façade.

Belican said she chose to give toothpaste sachet because they’re more useful than printed bills or streamers.

“I could not also afford to print those materials,” she told another resident.

Patoltol, who allowed some candidates to hang streamers in his store, said candidates can use their own strategies to win votes.

He said he appreciates the efforts of the candidates who spend for the token items.

The cost of a box of matches is  P1.45 plus the cost of printing, he said. A sachet of the tooth paste costs around P1.75.

“That’s already big money. How do they plan to recoup that investment?” he said.

Election laws allow candidates to spend up to three pesos for every registered voter in the barangay where he/she seeks to be elected.

In the  Sangguniang Kabataan elections, there are two major groups campaigning.

Like their elders, the young candidates held a motorcade around the village.
Patoltol said it is commendable that some candidates have become creative and practical.

But he added that their plans, experience, and credibility remain important for him when he votes on October 25. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)