SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews /15 May) — Tandag Bishop Raul Dael has condemned what he described as the “massive vote-buying and vote-selling” in the province of Surigao del Sur during the May 9 elections, the amounts reaching as high as 12,000 pesos per voter in Tandag City.
“Daghang salapi ang atong gipahimuslan tungod sa massive vote buying and vote selling. Ang atong Probinsiya, taliwala sa atong kalisod mao siguro ang pinakadako nga kantidad sa pálit sa mga botante sa tibook nasud. Angay ba nato kining ipasigarbo?” (So much money was used on massive vote-buying and vote-selling. Amid hardship, our province probably spent the largest amount nationwide for vote-buying. Should we be proud of this?), Dael said in his pastoral letter-homily on Sunday morning, a copy of which was posted in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tandag’s Facebook page.
Photos that circulated via social media group chats showed different money denominations separately stapled for each candidate in Tandag City contained in just one envelope, for a total amount of P11,690 per voter.
After the elections, he said, many are happy the candidates they supported won. But it cannot be denied that many were happy because of the huge amounts of money they received in exchange for their sacred vote, the Bishop said, adding that in the past few days, anywhere one goes, stores and restaurants are teeming with people with money to spend.
“Should we be proud of this?” the Bishop asked.
The Bishop had earlier warned the faithful in a homily before the May 9 polls not to vote for politicians who will buy votes and instead vote those who are sincere to serve the people by not enriching themselves while in power.
“This coming election is a measure in our abstinence from vote-buying and vote- selling because this is the only way to change our country,” Dael stressed in his homily.
Political observers note that the offer of cash to voters especially in Tandag City on the eve of election was the result of intense political rivalry between the camps of Rep. Prospero Pichay (Lakas) of the 1st congressional district and reelectionist Governor Alexander Pimentel (PDP). The two were allies in 2019 under PDP.
Pichay fielded his wife Carla, the mayor of Cantilan, to run for governor, a move that irked Pimentel, resulting in personal mudslinging between rival camps in their campaign rallies.
According to partial and still unofficial results, Pimentel has been reelected as Governor with 195,605 votes against Carla Pichay’s 159,746 or a 30,000 lead and Romeo Momo (Ind) won by at least eight thousand votes against reelectionist Rep. Pichay with 106,907 votes against Pichay’s 97,783.
At the national level, Surigao del Sur voted Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and Sara Duterte for Vice President. Marcos Jr. got 249,177 votes against Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao’s 58,632 and Leni Robredo’s 45,812. For Vice President, Sara Duterte got 301,080 votes against Senator Francis Pangilinan’s 24,178 and Senate President Tito Sotto’s 20,473.
Surigao del Sur has a voting population of 449,070.
In Tandag City, Roxanne Pimentel, wife of the governor, has also been reelected.
The camps of PDP under Pimentel and Lakas under Pichay have been accused of vote-buying.
Photographs of leaflets of candidates allegedly coming from the Pimentel camp with monetary attachments ranging from 20 pesos to as high as 2,000 pesos, have been passed around through chat groups.
A resident said he saw an envelope that contained 3,000 pesos separately stapled allegedly with the names of the Pichays.
Momo, who ran as an Independent candidate but is allied with the Pimentels, denied they bought votes and that the photograph being passed around is “black propaganda” by the camp of Pichay.
The Pichay camp also denied they bought votes.
Pichay’s wife, Carla, in her Facebook post evening of May 11 thanked all the membe1rs of Team Gugma (Team Love) for standing up until the end.
“Walay kantidad an amo maibayad para sa iyo pagbarog para sa ato kawsa. Walay kantidad an pwede makapalit sa kaugmaon nan ato probinsya” (We can pay no price for you to stand up for our cause. Standing up for our cause is priceless. No amount can buy the future of our province), she said, adding, “an tinood na resulta nan election mahibay-an sa mga sunod na adlaw. Untana wala nasayup an majority nan Surigaonon” (the real results of the election will be known in the next few days. We hope majority of the Surigaonons are not mistaken) in their choices.
Bishop Dael challenged parishioners to continue working on a new culture of politics in the province to strengthen democracy and keep alive the dream of a better community.
“Dili nato tugutan nga mapalong pag-usab ang siga sa espiritu sa volunterismo nga napukaw na sulod sa atong kahiladman. Ang katawhan nga nagkahiusa, dili mapukan ni bisan kinsa” (We must not allow the flame of the spirit of volunteerism that has been aroused in us to be extinguished again), the Bishop said. (Chris V. Panganiban / MindaNews)