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Bishop warns faithful: Shun vote-buying

ON the eve of barangay and youth elections, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas urged the faithful Sunday to reject vote buying as an attack on human dignity.

“When they offer you money, they are putting a price tag on you. Get mad!” he said in a pastoral letter.

“We are part of a bigger whole. Do not vote for your own sake. Vote thinking of the good of society. Remember those marginalized by previous leaders. Bayan muna bago ang sarili [Country first before self],” Villegas said.

Villegas also appealed to elected officials to “respect the non-partisan nature” of barangays and stop using barangay leaders as political wards.

“Tomorrow vote as a Filipino. Vote as a Catholic. Vote to restore all things in Christ,” he said.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas
The archbishop’s call came as the Department of the Interior and Local Government received reports of harassment and vote buying from around the country.

In an interview with radio dzBB, DILG Undersecretary Martin Diño said some of the reports involved congressmen, governors, mayors, town councilors and incumbent barangay chairmen.

Most reports came from Mindanao, Metro Manila and Bicol and Northern Luzon, particularly in Ilocos provinces and Abra, he said.

The reports would be collated and verified and submitted to the Commission on Elections for legal action, he added.

The DILG has identified 8,000 barangay election hotspots, but the number could grow amid new reports of harassment and election-related violence, Diño said.

As of Sunday, there were 25 election-related deaths reported, he said.

The Comelec said winners of the barangay and SK polls will be known within the day.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said he expects that majority of the winning barangay and SK candidates can already be proclaimed before midnight.

“We expect counting to be completed for the majority of barangays within the day because these are just small numbers [of votes],” Jimenez said in an interview.

He said those that may just take longer to be completed are the bigger barangays.

The Comelec has set the voting hours from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for today’s elections.

At the close of voting, Jimenez said counting and canvassing are expected to begin.

In cases of ties between or among candidates, the poll official reminded them that the use of a coin toss or any game of luck is allowed under the law.

This means drawing of lots, coin toss, or drawing of straws may determine who has the right to be proclaimed winners after a two- or three-way tie, he said.

“It may be difficult to accept for those who will lose [by luck]... but that is the policy in cases of deadlocks,” Jimenez said.

In cases of two-way ties, the Comelec said coin toss is the most preferred method to break the tie.

On the other hand, in cases of having more than two tied number of votes, the poll body said the method to determine the winner could be any game of luck as agreed upon by all parties involved.

Winning the elections through a coin toss or game of luck, however, will neither deprive the winner the right to be proclaimed like a normal top vote getter nor the loser the right to protest the election results. 

The Comelec warned voters against carrying sample ballots being handed out by barangay and SK candidates and supporters inside voting centers and polling precincts.

“We discourage the use of sample ballots produced by campaign teams,” Jimenez said. “Just bring your own list.”

Under the Omnibus Election Code, it is unlawful to undertake any electioneering on the day of election, for or against any candidate, within the polling place and within its radius of 30 meters.

Violation of the said prohibition is considered as an election offense, which is punishable by one to six years imprisonment, removal of right to vote, and disqualification to hold public office. 

The barangay and youth elections are being held after being postponed twice.

Officials in some 42,000 barangays have overstayed since 2013 while youth council posts were left vacant since 2010 after several laws were passed to defer local polls.

The Comelec will do a manual count for Monday’s polls.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, meanwhile, said it has not monitored any serious threat to the polls Monday.

Topics: vote-buying , Archbishop Socrates Villegas , barangay elections
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