Bulacan Gov. Daniel Fernando in his pandemic and relief pack and mobile vaccination activities in Hagonoy town recently where he continue to advocate against vote buying now made easy and sophisticated through GCash money transfer system. Photo by Carmela Reyes -Estrope

CITY OF MALOLOS–With today’s wide use of easy electronic money transfer GCash where almost all financial transactions can be done, even vote buying for the May 2022 elections and beyond through this scheme is not farfetch to happen. 

No other than Bulacan Gov. Daniel Fernando is leading an advocacy against vote buying or selling of votes particularly in next year’s polls whether through the traditional house to house and face to face manner or through using  the easy and fast GCash means and other money transmittal system. 

Not only that the pandemic requirement of social distancing and a controlled number of people in a mass gathering are major health protocol that electronic money transfer had further caused to thrive more, particularly GCash, but the process has been the most comfortable and convenient payment system for almost our monthly bills, even sending money, bank transfer, loading of RFID’s, payments of loans, and so many more.

Even prior to Catholic Archbishop Socrates Villegas very recent controversial statement telling Filipinos that there is nothing wrong in accepting money during elections particularly so during this pandemic as long as the voter can still vote whom their hearts so desire, Fernando has been bold in his public speeches calling on residents to teach politicians delving on vote buying a lesson by accepting the money but would vote who they really wanted and not necessarily the candidates buying their votes.

The governor is pushing for a reform in choosing and electing the leaders in the province so that even a well deserving average folk particularly the young new blood generation of leaders without bundles of cash available in the bank can run and win during election.

“Gusto kong baguhin ang sistema. Paano ang mga anak ninyo na gustong mamuno at mag-lingkod pero walang pera. Kaya dalain natin sila,” (I want to change the system. How can your no money, ordinary but deserving children lead and serve our people. That’s why we need to teach them a lesson,” he said. 

Fernando sees the electronic transfer of money GCash as the easiest and safest way to buy votes in the coming May 2022 elections.

“Ngayon kukunin lahat ng GCash numbers ninyo, diyan pararaanin ang lahat, diyan ang pinaka safest, hindi ko kayo pinipigilan. Kung gusto ninyong tanggapin, tanggapin ninyo. Lahat tayo kailangan natin ang pera lalo na ngayong pandemic. Pero mag-isip isip tayo. Puso at isip dapat ang ating pairalin at hanapin sa ating mga iboboto. Ang isip napag-aaralan pero ang mabuti at tapat na puso upang maglingkod ang dapat nating hanapin. Mga kuya, mga ate,  magtulungan tayo,” (Now, these candidates will get all your GCash numbers, it is the process they choose, it is the safest. But I will not prevent you, all of us needed money. But let us be wiser. Let us choose the leader who do not only has bright mind but more so a genuine and pure heart to serve the people. My brothers and sisters, let us help each other). 

As practiced for decades now, it is often the mayoralty positions in a synchronized national and local elections where vote buying are staged.

Today in a particular town, two mayoralty candidates in the next year’s election have already confirmed to this reporter thay they are delving in vote buying to ensure their victory.

In another town, Former Bulakan Councilor Atty. Ryan Trinidad who filed for mayoralty bid in next year’s election openly discuss in his social media account the vote buying scheme in Bulakan as he boasts and present himself not engaging in the illegal means to court people to vote for him in the coming election.

He said at P2,000 worth each for the 55,000 registered voters in Bulakan town, a mayoral candidate would spend as much as P110,000,000 compared with the P196,000,000 Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of the town.

“They are going to refund the huge money they paid each of the voters they paid during the election using the budget of the municipal government once they got elected to the detriment of the quality of services given to the people,” Trinidad said. 

“So alam ninyo na kung bakit kawawa ang Bulakan. Babawiin sa pera ng munisipyo. Ako po ay hindi gagamit ng pera dahil hindi ako babawi sa munisipyo. Hindi po ako mamimili ng boto para maging mayor dahil hindi ako magnanakaw at deserving kayong mga Bulakenyo ng mataas na level ng public service at mga projcts,” (So now you know why Bulakan is left behind. The elected mayor who spent millions in vote buying in order to win will steal the government’s money to be able to recover the amount he spent in vote buying. I will not resort in vote buying because I will not steal the government and the people’s money. You all deserve the best quality of public service and projects), he said in his social media posts. 

In other towns during the 2019 election, registering as voter of a particular mayoralty candidate was already made thru electronic means, thru texting and or private message in social media account. This electronic registration is seen to be similarly highly observed for the next year’s polls because of the pandemic.

Opposing political camps have their own respective leaders in each sitio or street in every barangay who approaches residents and ask them who their mayoralty bet is. The leaders come in one’s house and ask members of the family. Come election time, the night or two nights before the election, the same leaders will go to their voter’s houses and give the money. 

About fifteen years ago, a mayoralty candidate in one town bought vote for only P300.00. It was raised to P500 after few years until it rose to P1,500 during the May 2019 elections. 

In another town, vote buying during the 2013 and 2016 elections were as high as P2,500-P3,000 each. Both the opposing camps in this town resorted to this illegal means. These had been discreetly and successfully done. But, in one mayoralty camp, a 10 year old boy reportedly died of suffocation while with his mother after they were locked by the mayoralty candidate to prevent media from taking photos of the long piles and queues of people getting their money for their votes.

In 2007 in Bulakan town, about P6-Million worth of election money of the camp of then late Bulakan Mayor Anacleto Meneses was robbed by unidentified armed suspects in Barangay Perez two nights before the May 14 polls. Unidentified susoects pounded shots on the vehicle of Luisito “Boy Cando” Meneses Sta. Maria.

Police reports said Sta. Maria, a rich fishpond operator nephew of the mayor had just withdrew the money from a bank. 

However, still, the mayor won.

Atty. Julius Victor Degala, a prominent lawyer from the former Degala and Degala Law office said they had previously handled seven cases of vote buying mostly from mayoralty candidates but only one of these have reached the Bulacan Provincial Prosecutor’s Office. But, eventually, it was dismissed on the allegation that it could be the work of the complainant’s rival. The evidence they presented are sample ballots of candidate’s rival stapled with P500.00 each. 

In most cases, Degala said, the charges did not prosper as witnesses refused to execute affidavit and in other cases, a complaint of vote buying go to their office and when they sought the police action, the police will find no one in the reported place where the alleged vote buying is taking place. 

“To my knowledge, because of these, there were very seldom of this nature of cases were filed in court and reached a conviction,” he said.

On the election day itself in 2013, police have arrested a bunch of reported alleged vote sellers but the cases filed against them did not prosper. 

In Norzagaray town, the October 3, 2013 disqualification case due to vote buying ruled by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) first division filed against then winning and now incumbent Mayor Alfredo Germar by former Mayor Feliciano Legaspi was dismissed by the Supreme Court En Banc on September 15, 2015 due to no majority ruling of the commissioners.

The case involved the discovery and recovery of P800,000 worth of P500.00 each placed inside small brown envelops with attached sample ballot of Germar inside North Hills Village Homeowners Association Office in Barangay Tigbe on May 11, 2013, two days before the May 13 elections. 

The SC En Banc in such ruling upheld a January 28, 2015 Order of Comelec En Banc dismissing the petition for disqualification of Germar saying the earlier resolution disqualifying the mayor was not concurred in by a majority of all the members of the commission, so a re-hearing wad made. 

“in a 7-men commission, there has to be four majority votes. The vote of the four members must always be attained to render a decision, irrespective of the number of commissioners in actual attendance,” the decision reads. 

Comelec Provincial Election Supervisor Atty. Mona Ann Aldana-Campos however said that in the recent years, Bulacan has not recorded any complaints of vote buying incidents and disqualifications due to vote buying. 

In a recent zoom conference with Globe Telecom, its officials had boasted that their very own GCash is now the undisputed market leader of its kind with currently P51-Million E-wallet with registered users of the revolving money of all its users. 

GCash has P13-Million worth daily transaction, up yo 23 million Filipinos logging in daily or using its services on a day to day basis and 94,000 cash in and cash put with agent networks from the biggest national stores to the community sari-sari stores.