SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/08 May) — Massive vote-buying has been reported in all towns including this capital city with the amounts ranging from as low as 20 pesos to as high as 7,000 pesos, depending on the contested positions.
The amounts could be double if one accepts from opposing candidates or triple if one would agree to be “bulldozed,” a method in which the vote-buyer offers a higher amount than what was offered you by rival candidates.
Bishop Ree Timbang of the Iglesia Filipiniana Independiente (IFI or Philippine Independent Church) confirmed the province-wide massive vote buying or what is commonly referred to here as “tili-tili” (literally drizzle or light rain).
“It is confirmed that indeed massive vote buying is common place in every nook of Surigao City and Surigao del Norte province,” he said.
“In Malimono town the rate is as high as P2,600, in Bacuag town is P3,000, per vote. Vote-buying is rampant in the islands, too. It is going to escalate today and on election day. So far this is the worst in Surigao history,” the Bishop said on Saturday.
The Surigao City police also confirmed vote-buying in the city but no one has come to their office to file a complaint.
Article XXII of the Omnibus Election Code defines vote buying as giving, offering, or promising money, favors, or jobs in exchange for getting a person’s vote for the principal or causing the person to vote against somebody else. It holds criminally liable both the vote buyer and vote seller.
Persons found guilty face a prison term of one to six years and shall be permanently barred from holding any public office as well as denied of their right of suffrage.
MindaNews sources said the vote-buying started on Sunday, May 1 with 20, 50, 100, 500 even up to 1,000 bills circulated in different villages in the city and province through purok leaders or coordinators who serve as bagmen of politicians.
Lino (not his real name), a voter from Barangay Washington in Surigao City said he has received so far a total of 2,300 pesos. The money came from one political slate. He said he received PhP 1,500 from a mayoralty candidate, PhP 600 from a candidate for governor, two PhP 50 bills from candidates running for board member and another two PhP 50 bills from a candidate for vice-governor and a city councilor.
He said, coordinators informed him to proceed to an area where money wsa being distributed.
He said the money handed to him was placed in a letter envelope. When he opened it, the money was stapled to a small piece of paper bearing the candidates’ namea.
He recalled that when he was about to leave the area, he heard someone say, “Ajaw kalimti sa balota atong mga kandidato” (Don’t forget to shade the candidate’s name on the ballot).
Same as 2013
He said the same thing happened in the 2013 elections.
“The only difference now is that you have to go to a certain place unlike before when coordinators go your house or the streets and hand the money to you,” he said in Surigaonon.
Carrying a copy of the voters’ list, trusted men of the candidates would distribute the money in every village.
He said majority of the people would accept the money without any hesitation.
“If you won’t get the money, these coordinators or trusted men would get (what was intended for you), he said.
Roger (not his real name), a voter who is on the list of opposing camps was given a coupon and was told to claim the money at the barangay hall before the elections.
He said candidates who resort to vote buying have a big chance of winning even if they have no clear platforms and programs.
“As long as you have money, no need to campaign here and you have a big chance of winning your desired seat. The higher the amount you give, the more chances for you to win.”
Jun (not his real name) , a resident of Barangay Union, Dapa town in Siargao Island said each voter received P5,500.
“It’s getting bigger and bigger here. In the previous elections one could get as high as 2,000 pesos. This time it’s big money,” he said.
“Whether you like it or not, its part of the culture,” he said adding he plans to buy a new engine for his pumpboats.
Commonly called “bulldoze operations” or special operations, slum areas would be offered bigger money when they vote in favor of candidates.
“Every election, we will be offered bigger or even double than the prevailing vote (price). This way voters would easily be lured,” said Elna (not her real name), a voter in Barangay Mainit town in Surigao del Norte..
Not for sale
Johnny Plaza of Barangay Washington in Surigao City told MindaNews that although his name appeared on the list of persons who would be given money, he will not accept the money.
“My vote is not for sale,” he said adding that vote-buying or vote selling “is the biggest disaster.”
Candidates for the provincial board and candidates for councilors pay from P20 to P50 per voter, the voters interviewed said.
On Saturday, voters stayed home to ensure they get the money.
In Payawan, Barangay Luna, Surigao City, Boy (not his real name) said he waited along with neighbors in street corners until late evening for three nights hoping to receive “tili-tili.”
“We stormed him (campaigner) and took whatever amount he could give us… I got double or triple (the usual amount) because I told him that there were other voters in the house,” he added.
“Very undemocratic and non-credible”
IFI Bishop Rheem Timbang said vote-buying “thwarts the will of the people, disrespects their sacred rights to vote” and makes the election “very undemocratic and non-credible.”
“It is specter of worsening corruption in our midst, moral and spiritual including,” he said, adding that vote-buying “corrupts the soul of the Filipino nation and spawns a culture of fatalism among our people.”
Surigao City Police Office Police Supt. Reynaldo Acosta, could not be reached for comment. But Police Senior Office 2 Sara Jane Paloma of Surigao City Police station said they know about the massive vote-buying in the city but no one has come to their office to report or file a complaint.
Barangay Washington captain Christopher Bonite confirmed that vote-buying happened in his village.
“One local party is giving 3,500 to 4,000 per voter but selected (voters) only; the other party is giving 2,200 per voter to almost everyone,” he said. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)