Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 13) — Authorities have nabbed hundreds of alleged vote-buyers and vote-sellers halfway through the midterm elections that have been marred by “massive” vote-buying complaints.
At the onset of the May 13 polls, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief P/Gen Oscar Albayalde reported that there have been 79 vote-buying incidents, with 240 confirmed violators. Of these, 230 have been arrested, while 10 remain at large.
“The report here is nakikita natin is massive ‘yung vote-buying incidents. ‘Yung reports ng vote-buying talagang kaliwa’t kanan, although some of the reports are hindi confirmed and are not actually true,“ the chief told the press on Monday.
[Translation: The report here is we are seeing massive vote-buying incidents. The reports of vote-buying come from everywhere although some of the reports are not confirmed and are not actually true.]
In Moises Padilla town, Negros Occidental, authorities arrested 30 people allegedly involved in vote buying and illegal campaign activities from Sunday night up to today. Among them are teenagers aged 15 to 16-years-old who were released from police custody because they are minors.
Authorities said that they caught 12 of the suspects allegedly carrying sample ballots, with two ₱500 bills attached to each of them. The suspects supposedly carried a total of ₱12,000.
The 12 will be charged for vote buying, while the others will face charges for prohibited campaigning in relation to the Fair Elections Act, Lt. Gen. Adrian Accolador said.
A jeepney plying the route of Pulupandan-Bacolod with about 600 sample ballots in it was also intercepted in Moises Padilla.
Lt. Gen. Adrian Accolador, head of Task Force Molai, said that the arrest of the suspects was an offshoot of reports they received Sunday night about massive vote buying in several barangays in Moises Padilla.
Moises Padilla is under the Commission on Elections' control following the spate of election-related killings there.
In EB Magalona, another town in Negros Occidental, two brothers were nabbed for violation of the Omnibus Election Code, after authorities seized 127 brown envelopes from them. Each envelope contained a sample ballot and ₱1,000 in cash.
Police Captain Jaynick Bermudez, EB Magalona Police Station head, said that the two were carrying a total of ₱127,000.
In Pampanga, seven people were nabbed for vote buying. Meanwhile, another person was apprehended in Tarlac for the same offense.
Compared to the 2016 national elections, the PNP saw a 60 percent drop in violent election-related incidents this year. As of Monday 2 am, there have been 43 violent incidents wherein 20 people have been killed, 24 injured, while 29 were unharmed. Around the same period in 2016, there were already 106 reported violent incidents.
The PNP also recorded 52 incidents of liquor ban violations involving 340 violators, of whom 337 were arrested while three remain at large.
Albayalde deployed over 165,000 officers to secure the country. The PNP chief assigned 3,125 personnel to be ready to step in for election board duty in case some polling centers will be short of volunteers. He added that 1,258 PNP personnel are on standby in Camp Crame Headquarters in Quezon City.
Pampanga-based journalist Justine Dizon contributed to this report.