Palawan group accuses reelected Governor Alvarez of vote buying

REELECTED. Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez wins another term in the 2019 elections. He rejects the vote-buying allegations against him. File photo from Palawan Provincial Information Office

REELECTED. Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez wins another term in the 2019 elections. He rejects the vote-buying allegations against him.

File photo from Palawan Provincial Information Office

PALAWAN, Philippines – A coalition of Palawan civil society organizations claimed that reelected Governor Jose Alvarez bought votes for a landslide victory, an accusation that Alvarez denied.

Lawyer Robert Chan, executive director of Palawan NGO Network Incorporated (PNNI), said they recorded "3 confirmed cases" of vote buying involving Alvarez, who will enter his 3rd and final term.

These cases, Chan added, are just among the "numerous reports of vote buying" they received from across the province, and tackled in their meeting on Saturday, May 18.

The problem, however, is not a single witness wants to speak up.

"Sadly, there is no one courageous enough to testify that they have received money for their votes for JCA (Jose C. Alvarez)," Chan told Rappler in a text message on Sunday, May 19.

"Their families are afraid and we do not want to force them to do something against their will," he added.

Alvarez rejected the vote-buying allegations in a media interview on Friday, May 17.

"Bakit naman iuugnay sa akin? Nakita ba akong nang-aabot ng pera? Wala eh," the governor said.

(Why are they connecting the incidents to me? Did they see me hand over cash? No.)

Alvarez, who ran under President Rodrigo Duterte's PDP-Laban, also said: "Sabi nga ni Duterte, vote buying is an 'integral' part. Sabi niya kung nakapila ka ng 6 hours, pakainin ka bago ka umuwi, hindi ka kakain? Or bibigyan ka ng pamasahe sa tricycle, 'di mo tatanggapin?"

(Duterte even said that vote buying is an "integral" part. He said that if you've been in line for 6 hours and you were offered food, would you decline? If they give you money for your tricycle fare, would you refuse to accept it?)

Sample ballots

Save Palawan Movement, a group affiliated with PNNI, recently posted on Facebook some photos showing an envelope with P500 alongside a sample ballot bearing Alvarez's name.

The photos of sample ballots also included candidates in the towns of Brooke's Point, Bataraza, Narra, and Cuyo, who had formed alliances with Alvarez's Partido Pagbabago ng Palawan (PPP).

Chan said vote-buying complaints would push through against two elected mayors with "more stable witnesses."

The PNNI executive director added that his coalition will also file "a petition to protest the unacceptable conduct of the elections by the Comelec and PNP (Philippine National Police)."

"Many had reported vote-buying activities which were not responded to by both the Comelec and PNP," he claimed.

Alvarez and his PPP party mates vying for provincial board seats were proclaimed winners on Saturday afternoon.

Aside from Alvarez, also victorious were his nephews: Franz, reelected as 1st District representative after running unopposed, and newbie politician Juan, elected as 1st District board member.

The proclamation for provincial elective posts came after over 5 days of delayed canvassing due to defective SD cards and vote-counting machines in remote island towns that had to be replaced.

Alvarez garnered 206,364 votes in the gubernatorial race. His closest opponent, PNNI-endorsed Arthur Ventura, got 126,586 votes.

Alvarez and Ventura have opposing views on key issues in Palawan, notably the move to divide Palawan into 3 provinces, which will be decided upon by residents through a plebiscite on the second Monday of May 2020. – Rappler.com