This is my first time in many years that I actually at ground zero for the Abra Elections 2016.
It’s an open secret that Vote Buying is always part of Philippine Elections, but during my last two weeks of presence in the Province, I didn’t expect how so blatantly out in the open.
I can tell you that VOTE BUYING is real, mind boggling (how cash is overflowing) and of course so disgusting.
I have spoken to several voters (who choose not to be named for security reasons) and casually admitted openly that they have received money not only once but twice and even trice. Some willingly and some out of fear.
The way things are going, voters may get more in the next few days leading to May 9, as warring BIG political clans are reportedly trying to outbid each other. The amount ranges from P2,000.00 to as high as P10,000.00 per voter.
Right now, rampant vote buying are now going on in almost every municipalities in Abra. Some noted last minute strong vote buying activities are the vote rich municipalities of Pidigan, Bangued, Tayum, Bucay, San Juan and La Paz.
Also, Bangued Police recently raided the home of a an allege Congressional Candidate supporter in Barangay Bangbangar in Bangued. The raid revealed sample ballots and huge amount of cash.
I’ve attended almost all the COMELEC sponsored Candidates forum and every candidates had agreed that the biggest issue in the elections in now Vote Buying.
Dr. Joselito Bringas, who’s running for Congress, has spoken strongly against vote buying. “Vote buying is now a business in Abra”, he said. Politicians are looking at the elections as an investment and would cash in on that investment when elected. Naturally they will do everything to win, this includes outbidding their opponents. This is one reason I decided to run. We have to stop these politicians from bleeding our province and our people.”
Antonio Viernes, who is running for Governor, on his part has also denounced this traditional practice. “You can see how Candidates and government sectors highlight the lack of respect to our people. For example, candidates tagging a price per head or per family. What does that mean? You don’t give dignity to that person. you are degrading their rights as a human being. And this saddens me a lot.”
So far, we have not seen any concrete actions from the COMELEC aside from the usual lip service on print and radio media.
COMELEC Abra Chief, Atty. Mae Rachelle Belmes-Beronilla during the candidates orientations seminar at ASIST Bangued sometime in March, was asked about vote buying and she reported was quoted to have said “Basta hindi lantaran”. Then later on say “Joke lang”.
Well, we ain’t laughing…