Vote-buying doesn’t have to be cash, warns watchdog

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 8 May) – With less than a week left before the May 13 polls, election watchdog Kontra Daya urged residents here and in the neighboring areas to be more vigilant against possible attempts by candidates and political camps to buy their votes in cash or in other forms.

Pastor Anthony Huevos, Kontra Daya co-convenor, said reports of rampant vote-buying activities usually emerge during the last leg or final days of the campaign period as they had observed in past elections.

The supposed vote-buying schemes, he pointe out, could be in the form of cash, rice or food packs and other basic goods.

Speculations earlier came out that some candidates in the area had been “buying votes” at P300 to P500 per voter.

Huevos advised voters to refuse such offers and reject the candidates of political camps or parties that will attempt to buy their support.

He urged voters to report to them any form of vote-buying, cheating and possible violent activities related to the elections that they might witness or encounter.

“It will depend on the voters’ conscience if they decide to accept them or not. But it’s important for our voters to realize that they must really choose the right candidate and not get swayed by offers of any compensation from politicians,” he said.

Citing their group’s ongoing monitoring, Huevos said certain parties have made promises to some voters that they will give out rice and food packs days before the May 13 midterm national and local elections.

He did not identify the political camp that made such offer but noted that “both parties” were supposedly preparing for such dubious acts.

Two major political camps here have been wooing local voters for control of the city hall and the first congressional district of South Cotabato, which covers this city.

Incumbents Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio and South Cotabato (1st District) Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr. are seeking reelection under the administration-backed Liberal Party-Achiever’s with Integrity Movement (LP-AIM).

They are being challenged by top city councilor Ronnel Rivera and Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel Pacquiao’s younger brother, Apopong barangay chair Rogelio, of the People’s Champ Movement-United Nationalist Alliance (PCM-UNA).

Custodio repeatedly declared that her party had never resorted to vote-buying in its almost 30 years of existence and dominance of the local political scene.

She acknowledged to have monitored reports on some vote-buying activities in the area but cited that her camp was not behind them.

“Our integrity is intact and we always depend on our good performance to win the people’s support. I don’t think we need to buy votes just to get us elected,” she said in a recent forum.

For their part, Rivera said the reports on supposed vote-buying activities by some politicians in the city were not new and come out every election time.

“I’m not really privy to the specific details of these activities since I’m also new to politics but rest assured that we’re not into this kind of activity,” said Rivera, who is only running for the second time after topping the city council race despite being an independent in the 2010 elections.