Vote-buying is so rampant this election that even tabo, timba, palangana (laundry utensils) being used to buy votes, an official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said yesterday.
In a Pangasinan town alone, aside from one thousand pesos per candidate for thousands of voters who queued at the residence of a mayoralty bet, pail, basin, water dipper, a kilo of rice, two sardine cans and two noodles inside a pack, and others were given since last week to voters.
Candidates for the town council competed with one another in even delivering to the houses of their supporters the laundry and bathroom utensils.
“They say vote-buying is everywhere and the price is even higher. We are receiving reports that everything is being used to buy votes, not only money. It could be basins, grocery items and even tabo,” Comelec Commissioner Luie Guia said.
The poll official said the way to make vote-buying ineffective is to protect the secrecy of the ballots.
“This is why the secrecy of the ballot is an important aspect of the elections. If vote-buyers would not know which candidate a voter picked, I don’t think they would continue their operations,” Guia said.
He said even the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights does not put emphasis on the sophistication of the machines or the appearance of the ballot box, but on the secrecy of the votes.
Guia refused to relate the rise in vote-buying to the printing of the voters’ receipt, a piece of paper generated by the vote counting machines (VCMs) for the voters to check their votes.
He gave the assurance that the Comelec would try to strictly enforce the policy requiring voters to leave the receipts in the receptacles provided at the polling precincts.
“That is very important and that is something that should be ensured by the Board of Election Inspectors and the Comelec – that the receipts will not be taken out of the polling precincts because that is the best evidence that you are complying with vote-buying,” Guia said.
The Comelec had been ordered by the Supreme Court to print the voters’ receipts to enable voters to verify if their votes were counted correctly by the VCMs.
The Comelec had opposed this for fear that the receipts would be used not only in vote buying, but would create long queues at the polling precinct and delay the voting process (with report from Sheila Crisostomo)