MANILA, May 13, 2013—Catholic bishops around the country said today’s mid-term elections had a heavy turnout which resulted into long queues at public school buildings serving as polling centers, but reports of machines’ malfunction, vote-buying activities and other election anomalies marred the political exercise.
Batanes Bishop Camilo Gregorio said election today in the Philippines’ northernmost province was “smooth.” Voters had to queue for sometime as voting got delayed.
“There were no reports of direct vote-buying but [yesterday] different gimmicks were employed to win votes in today’s elections,” Bishop Gregorio said. But the bishop remains thankful to God that not a single violent incident marred the elections in his diocese as of press time.
In the Diocese of Calbayog, Bishop Isabelo Abarquez described today’s political exercise as “peaceful.”
Visiting precincts manned by Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) volunteers, the bishop revealed some 90% of voters have joined today’s political exercise.
Abarquez said reports of vote-buying also surfaced, but lack of evidence failed to prove it.
The bishop is thankful to God there was no terrorism and coercion that happened in his province during this political exercise.
San Fernando de Pampanga Auxiliary Bishop Pablo Virgilio David called CBCP Online Radio to report about a complaint from a voter from Precinct 0169-A at Betis, Guagua, Pampanga.
The voter reported the ballot given by the local Board of Election Inspectors had a pre-shaded portion, that of the governor down to Guagua’s councilors.
David who also acts as PPCRV chair for the Archdiocese had the woman execute her sworn statement before a notary public. He said he will bring the statement before the Commission on Election’s Pampanga provincial office for appropriate action.
Lipa (Batangas) Archbishop Ramon V. Arguelles, meanwhile, downplayed reports from alleged PPCRV volunteers who said 95% of the PCOS machines did not work as expected.
He said while it is true there are PPCRV volunteers in Batangas, these volunteers are from Born-Again movements, some of whom were pastors.
“We have nothing to do with this purported PPCRV,” Arguelles said. He added they want to respect PPCRV but they also give false news about Batangas for still unknown reasons.
From Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Bishop Jose Cabantan said about 80% of the voters have participated in today’s polls. Although there were some problems with the PCOS machines, the problems were addressed earlier in the day by replacing the defective machines.
Cabantan also reported some voters were disenfranchised as their names no longer appeared in the master list of voters.
Long queues of voters were also noted. Vote-buying was reported last night though there were no evidences gathered.
In Malolos, Bulacan, Bishop Jose F. Oliveros said despite the 5,322 PPCRV volunteers, four critical areas were listed and these include the towns of San Miguel, San Rafael, Dona Remedios Trinidad and Hagonoy. There were only a few volunteers in those areas.
Jaro (Iloilo) Auxiliary Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles, PPCRV-Jaro reported that as of 4 pm, there have been reports of vote-buying within the vicinity of some polling places.
“There are some barangay officials who interfere with voters before entering the precinct area.
He said PCOS machines’ paper also jammed early this afternoon. Malfunctioning PCOS machines have remained unattended due to unavailability of some decisions.
In Kalinga, Apayao, Bishop Prudencio Andaya said the voting was generally peaceful, but reports of vote-buying were all over town. He said they are still in the process of monitoring events through PPCRV and the business-backed National Movement of Free Elections (NAMFREL).
For his part, South Cotabato Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez said elections in his area is best described as “peaceful” which a “heavy turnout.”
However, Davao del Sur Bishop Guillermo Afable said vote buying was rampant in highly and hotly contested towns in Davao del Sur province. A handful of incidents of PCOS malfunction were also reported but people are more confident this time with the automated election system, he further said.
Over in the Diocese of Virac in Catanduanes Province, Bishop Manolo delos Santos said he thankful to God there was no violence or terrorism that happened on election day. However, “peaceful and successful” vote-buying activities were reported. (Melo M. Acuna)