Vote-buying, vote-selling "virus" active in SK polls

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/31 October) –  So young and so corrupt.

The Interfaith Movement for Peaceful and Clean Elections (IM4PeaCE), an alliance of peoples’ organizations, NGOs, religious sects, and individuals committed to safeguard and monitor elections, including last week’s barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls, said the “virus” of vote-buying and vote-selling has infected the young voters.

In a report released to media last Saturday, IM4PeaCE, said of the SK polls: “votes were equal to money, in kind, or both.  The practice had become personal with candidates going from house to house in the week prior on October 25 to offer money ranging from P20 to P500 as well as ration of rice and other food.”

With 27 poll volunteers assigned in different villages in Cotabato City, the group said they monitored voters flocking to the headquarters of candidates the night before the election, “putting their votes up to bid and choosing the highest bidder to vote during the elections.”

The group monitored and documented election incidents in polling precincts in Bagua-Dos, Mother Barangay Bagua, Tukananes, Poblacion-Uno, RH 8, RH 10, Poblacion 6, and Tamontaka Mother Barangay.

“Watchers as well as supporters of candidates publicly hand out sample ballots and stubs with money inserted and voters tolerated such acts by willingly accepting them. Some do this inside the precincts through the watchers and outside through the windows under the noses of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs),” the report said.

“The cycle of vote-selling and vote-buying has become vicious and has become a tolerated practice during elections; as if it had become ‘in’ to sell and buy votes.   This practice cannot be avoided since everybody’s doing it. It has become a plague that also infected the young people voting for their leaders in the SK during elections,” the report added.

The group has also monitored disenfranchisement of voters due to unsystematic and unorganized process of the elections and the lack of consideration for people with special needs such as senior citizens and differently-abled people.

“Flying voters” landed in various polling centers in Cotabato City. These are people registered in other barangays but who flock to other barangays to vote using other registered voters’ names.

The group also documented underaged voters, who, “are paid by these candidates to vote illegally. Most of the time, they arrive in throngs guided by the supporters of candidates to precincts. Manipulation of voters’ list played a big role in the continuing casting of illegal votes,” the IM4PeaCE report said.

Tampering and destroying of election paraphernalia were also noted.

The report also cited an example where, before the election started in one barangay, a ballot box containing padded ballots was confiscated. There was also an incident where the polling center was ransacked by armed men, stealing a ballot box and throwing it to the canal; damaging the ballots inside.

“As to how these ballots were padded and as to how armed men were able to terrorize a precinct and steal away election paraphernalia lies on the COMELEC’s credibility in holding elections,” the group said.

The use of threats, intimidation, terrorism, and fraudulent device or other forms of coercion was also observed during the elections.

The IM4PeaCE report said the percentage of violence during the barangay and SK elections was high because contenders for official posts were members of the family, friends and neighbors. (Malu Cadelina-Manar/MindaNews)