Widespread vote-buying, political partisanship mars barangay election in Albay

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Alleged widespread vote-buying and political partisanship marked Monday’s barangay election in this province. Citizen election watchers observed massive vote-buying in almost all villages in Albay.

As of noon Monday, the barangay election was generally peaceful across the 15 towns and three cities in Albay, said lawyer Romeo Serrano, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Albay provincial officer.

Serrano said in a phone interview that at exactly 7 a.m. on Monday, all voting centers in the province were opened and by 9 a.m., clustered voting precincts were functioning.

He said voters came early to cast their votes, and he expects that the counting will start as scheduled.

Serrano expects that by 7 p.m., the winning candidates will be known.

Monday’s election, he said, would be fast because of the postponement of the Sangguniang Kabataan election where 65,000 youth voters would have cast their votes.

Albay has 752,685 registered voters, with 2,452 clustered precincts in 720 villages across the province.

Citizen election watchers observed massive vote-buying in almost all villages in Albay.

The amount given by candidates for village chieftains ranges from P50 to P2,000 per voter; while for village councilman, the amounts range from P20 to P500 per voter, depending on how large the barangay is and the number of voters.

Other election irregularities observed were: candidates were engaged in political partisanship, claiming that they were affiliated to known political leaders; candidates’ presence near polling centers, violating the 100-meter off-limits zone prescribed by the Comelec; candidates were employing the “hakot” system to insure that voters would vote for them.

Political observers said all candidates in this city claimed affiliation with either the Team Noel, referring to City Mayor Noel Rosal, and Team Joey, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda.

They also observed that poll watchers from different camps conspicuously wore colorful t-shirts to mark their affiliations to candidates and assisting voters at the polling place.

Chief Inspector Arhur Gomez said that as of noon, the election in the province was generally peaceful and no untoward incident took place. (PNA)

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