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Comelec to probe vote buying allegations raised by pro-Duterte group against Siquijor politikos Rocamora, Villa

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The Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the nearby island-province of Siquijor will investigate the reported alleged massive vote-buying in relation to Monday’s barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

Lawyer Jerome Brillantes, the provincial election supervisor of Siquijor, in an interview Monday afternoon, disclosed that the provincial Comelec office in the island province comprising six towns has received reports of alleged vote-buying prior to elections day.

Reports reaching his office show candidates are reportedly distributing cash ranging from P20 to P100 or even more per voter, along with campaign materials.

Last Saturday the municipality of Larena, considered as the economic hub of Siquijor, was disrupted following a confrontation between the group of Mayor Dean Villa and Siquijor Rep. Ramon “Rav” Rocamora and another group which turned out later to be a non-government organization “advocating the reforms and other plans and programs of President Rodrigo Duterte.”

The group called themselves the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte National Executive Coordinating (MRRDNECC) Committee “espousing the advocacies of the President, especially (against) vote-buying,” said Clare Lucero, its vice chairman.

Brillantes said his office has received a report from the Philippine National Police (PNP) regarding the Saturday confrontation, which the police managed to pacify before it could get out of hand.

A police blotter report from the Larena police station had two versions of the confrontation that took place in the town hall that night.

The first version showed that a group led by Roy Jimenez and Claire Lucero went to the police station to have it recorded that while they were parking their vehicles near the Tan Bongco Learning Center in the vicinity of the municipal hall, “stalking the activities of the barangay candidates who were coming in and out” of the mayor’s office.

While they were recording such activities on video, one of the supporters of the mayor spotted them and reported right away to the local chief executive.

They further alleged in the police blotter report that an “angry” Villa came over to them, banged the window of their vehicle and asked them to disembark, which they did not heed out of fear of being “assaulted by his supporters”.

It was then that Rocamora came and also requested them to step out of the vehicle, but still they refused until the police arrived, headed by police chief Senior Insp. Edgar Labe, who asked them to roll down their windows.

After the commotion was calmed down, the group of Lucero agreed to leave the place upon the request of the police chief.

However, they claimed that Villa threw a cup of water at Jimenez, which was caught on video camera.

Brillantes said that while talks are widespread about the supposed vote-buying activities, nobody was willing to testify as his office has not yet received an official complaint regarding this issue.

There is also no evidence to back up the reports, such as photographs or video clips, he said.

“It is frustrating that we receive these reports by word of mouth only, and people are also accusing us in the Comelec of not doing anything about it,” he pointed out.

Brillantes said the Comelec in the province has restrictions and limitations in the conduct of an investigation of alleged unlawful acts related to the elections, as these have to go through a process such as a report being forwarded to their legal department.

“In fact gani, nagubot mi dire gahapon kay ang among PD ug ubang mga police ma relieve unta (In fact, we were thrown off-guard yesterday because our PD (provincial police director) and other policemen would have been relieved) for not doing something about the complaints of alleged vote-buying,” he said.

Brillantes stressed that vote-buying was not something happening exclusively in Siquijor, as the problem is also commonplace in other parts of the country.

The provincial Comelec supervisor said each time his office received a report of “vote-buying” activities in a particular area, he or his staff would respond right away, escorted by the police, but by the time they get to the place, it would be too late as the people have already dispersed.

“And the sad part is nobody is willing to cooperate. They just keep complaining but they are not even willing to file a formal complaint so that we have grounds to charge the ones responsible,” he lamented.

He also disclosed reports of politicians allegedly “dipping their fingers” into what is supposed to be a non-partisan and non-political electoral exercise.

Brillantes said opposing groups involved in a verbal tussle and confrontation in the municipality of Larena this past weekend should pursue their complaint and file charges against each other.

“Mas maau unta nga mu file sila ug complaint aron nay masampolan dire sa Siquijor (It would be better if they would file a complaint so that it would set an example here in Siquijor),” he stressed. (PNA)