By Artemio Dumlao (philstar.com)
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Voters in Abra are reportedly being bought for P3,000, the police said on Tuesday.
More than a month before the May polls, voters in Bangued, Abra’s capital town are being bought by a political family for P3,000 each, Cordillera police director Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong said.
Magalong, who said he is submitting evidence of the rampant vote-buying in the province to the poll body, said local churches in the province who are monitoring the pre-election scenario in the northern province have been reporting to him about the said age-old and dirty practice.
The Commission on Elections is expected to subpoena those being complained for the alleged vote buying to explain.
It started last week, said an Abrenio, who comes from a huge political family in the province.
What is disturbing, said another Abrenio, who begs off to be named, is it is very early into the elections.
A congressional candidate and his father-politician are reportedly buying voters for P3,000 while their opponent political family have been shelling out P500 to P1,000.00 only.
It is an age-old practice, said “Ricardo”, an Abrenio who comes from a huge political clan in the province. Money, not platform, is the name of the game from the municipal positions up to the congressional posts, he said.
As of 2010, Abra has 147,615 voters.
For a three-cornered fight like in the congressional race in the province, a vote of 60,000 is a win. But P3,000 per voter coughs up to a whopping P18 million.
An Abra congressman receives some P22 million “pork” (Priority Development Assistance Fund) every year or P66 million for the whole three-year term.
Incumbent Rep. Jocelyn Valera-Bernos of the Liberal Party is slugging it out with lawyer Hans Luna, a scion of a huge political family whose brother Ryan Luna is gunning for a re-election with the congresswoman’s father-Dominic in the Bangued mayoralty race. A third bet, former Mayor Rolando Somera, is said to be a “dark horse” in the race.
While in the gubernatorial race, another Luna- former Abra Rep. Cecille– mother of Mayor Ryann and congressional bet Hans- is gping up against incumbent Gov. Eustaquio Bersamin.
The real battle is in the capital town Bangued, with 25,250 registered voters for a population of 43,936.
In the past, a huge political family reportedly used P15 million for Bangued to ensure victory. The “distribution” is not only for identified supporters but everyone, said a “political operator” in the province.
The expenses are easily recoverable, (by the winning politician), he further said.
For several decades already, political families in the provinces have been trading barbs on alleged plunder of government coffers from the Internal Revenue Allotment to “standard operating procedures” on government infrastructure projects.
None of these allegations so far has yet prospered toward actual litigation, although some complaints have been lodged against erring officials, who in turn either “killed” the issue or “silenced” the complainants.
Such culture is also attributed to “warlordism” in the province, which is a problem until now.