Vote-buying, VCM glitches mar polls in Bicol, Zambales

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Vote-buying and minor glitches in the operation of vote-counting machines (VCMs) marred election day in the Bicol region and in Zambales province.

“This is the first time that vote-buying took place for presidential candidates here,” remarked reelectionist Albay Third District Representative Fernando Gonzalez of the Liberal Party.

Free transportation and food for voters, and other forms of alleged vote-buying were observed in the First District of Albay where there is a 3-cornered congressional race among comebacking former representative Edcel Lagman (LP), Antonio Betito of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), and Ted Contacto of PDP-Laban.

In Catanduanes, voters reportedly received P5,000 to nearly P10,000 each, according to a woman who claimed she sold her vote, along with 17 other registered voters in their family. They reportedly earned a total of P90,000 in the 2016 polls.

In Masbate, the Philippine National Police in Bicol  said it received reports of political harassment and vote-buying  on election day.

A shooting incident was reported in the towns of Milagros and San Pascual while in Cataingan town, the members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) of Tugbo village requested for police assistance because of tension due to intense political rivalry there.

PNP Bicol spokesperson Police Senior Inspector Malu Calubaquib said there were instances of malfunctioning VCMs throughout the Bicol region. 

Parts of the region were also hit by power outages, despite the assurance of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) that this would not happen on election day. This covered some areas in Albay, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur.

In Zambales,  at least 10 voting precincts in Olongapo City and 4 towns in Zambales province reported malfunctioning VCMs. Poll clerks and election inspectors in precincts where VCM glitches were reported explained that these were minor technical problems and were immediately addressed.

Meanwhile, party leaders of  "Sulong Zambales" under reelectionist Governor Hermogenes Ebdane were accused of vote-buying by village leaders who asked not to be named.

Supporters of Candelaria mayoralty candidate Gilbert Hermoso claimed to have foiled alleged vote-buying attempts of the town’s reelectionist mayor, reportedly at P2,000 to P3,000 per voter.

In almost all the towns of Zambales from Sta Cruz in the north to Subic in the south in the last few days leading to May 9, candidates and party leaders allegedly openly distributed cash amounting to P500 per voter. 

Rappler correspondent Randy Datu saw voters queuing up in the houses of candidates or local coordinators, and managed to talk to some of those coming out. Some admitted that they received the money while others showed the shaded sample ballots in their envelopes.

Amid allegations of massive vote buying by Ebdane’s candidates, his party leaders explained that the money being distributed were allowances of their barangay coordinators and watchers. – Rappler.com