BAYUGAN CITY (MindaNews / 01 December) – Presidential candidate Senator Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao handed at least 4 million pesos in cash in addition to rice and other food items during his sorties to Agusan del Sur and Butuan City.
Joey Hernal, communications officer of the Pacquiao campaign team said an estimated 4,000 people received the “ayuda” (aid), 2,000 in Butuan City on Monday, and 1,000 each in San Francisco and Bayugan City in Agusan del Sur on Tuesday.
The senator handed P1,000, five kilos of rice and a dressed to each of the recipients.
A broadcast blitz over local FM stations on Pacquiao’s visit drew throngs of people to the venues in San Francisco and Bayugan on Tuesday.
Some sectors have criticized such move by candidates as a form of vote-buying.
But the Commission on Elections said that under the law vote-buying can only be committed during the campaign season itself.
For his part, Pacquiao defended the “ayuda” saying it wasn’t meant to woo more votes, as he had been doing it when he wasn’t a politician yet.
In Barangay Maygatasan, Bayugan, Naomi Pio,52, a polio victim since she was six months old, was among those received cash and foodstuff from the senator. She arrived at the venue with from another village, Bucac, on board a tricycle.
She said she almost failed to get a coupon for the distribution of the “ayuda”. However, the local coordinators of the Manny Pacquiao for President Movement took pity on her and picked her as the first recipient.
Members of Pacquiao’s team said they prioritized persons with disabilities like Naomi as well as senior citizens to receive the assistance.
Pacquiao, who personally handed the cash and goods, gave another P1,000 to Naomi’s husband, Carlito Pio, who pushed her wheelchair towards their “idol”.
Carlito works as an abantero (mining tunnel worker) in the gold rush areas of Rosario town.
“I was dumbfounded when I personally meet Pacquiao that I could not remember what he whispered to me,” Naomi said of her experience meeting the boxing superstar.
She said she and her husband have been long-time fans of Pacquiao that she sometimes fainted whenever the eight-division world champion got hit by a strong punch from his opponent.
But other people who swarmed the covered court in Maygatasan were not as lucky as her.
The event announcer assured those who got no coupons that they would receive P500 each but they were only given P200 because Pacquiao’s staff had run out of cash.
Many expressed dismay for not receiving the “ayuda,” saying they went to the venue as early as 10 p.m. the night before hoping to be included in the distribution of coupons.
The coordinators had made the list of recipients and given the coupons two days prior.
To assuage those who left empty-handed, the Pacquiao team distributed forms where they would write their names, concerns like jobs or homes, and their contact details.
The team said the information would be recorded in Pacquiao’s databank and promised that their concerns would be addressed if he wins the presidency.
The senator also promised to uplift the economic condition of the poor by putting to jail corrupt officials.
He said that every year the country lost P1 trillion to corruption.
“If we could put them in jail and recover at least P500 billion every year, there would be no more poor Filipinos within my six-year presidency,” he told the crowd in Bayugan City. (Chris V. Panganiban/MindaNews)