THE midterm National and Local Elections proceeded Monday, May 13, despite explosions in Maguindanao, an armed confrontation in Sulu, massive vote-buying and other election-related incidents.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it has received 32 reports of vote-buying activities nationwide involving some 174 people who were arrested as of 2 a.m. Monday.
"I guess what you can tell from this is that there are a lot of vote-buying activities at the very last minute,” said Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez.
“Vote-buying remains a political staple to our candidates,” he added.
Vote-buying occurs when a person gives, offers, or promises money or anything of value, directly or indirectly, in order to induce anyone or the public in general to vote for or against any candidate.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Oscar Albayalde said they were verifying and investigating the reports of “massive” vote-buying nationwide.
“Nakikita natin ‘yung massive talaga ‘yung vote buying incidents. Reports of vote-buying ay kaliwa’t kanan,” he said.
“Although some of the reports are hindi confirmed and not actually true,” he added.
In Maguindanao province in the Bangsamoro region, three explosions, not four as police said earlier, rocked Datu Odin Sinsuat and Cotabato City since Sunday, May 12. No casualties were reported.
The first explosion happened at about 10:04 p.m. of May 12, 2019 at a vacant lot in Purok Omar, Cotabato City. Initial findings show that there were two improvised explosive devices composed of 40mm that went off.
This incident was followed by two more explosions that took place at 1:05 a.m. and 7:10 a.m. on Monday, May 13, in Poblacion Dalican, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao. One hand grenade was believed to have been thrown by unidentified motorcycle-riding men.
Mortar fragments were recovered near the blast site.
Major General Cirilito Sobejana, commanding general of the 6th Infantry Division, said the blasts appeared to be intended to scare voters more than to inflict harm.
"The explosions occur in open areas which are not usual converging points. There were no reported casualties," said Sobejana.
Sobejana said rival candidates could have been behind the four explosions.
As of May 13, Albayalde said 20 people have been killed in election-related incidents.
The number is 50 percent lower than the 40 election-related deaths during the pre-election period for the 2016 elections and 40 during the pre-election period of 2013.
At the PNP National Election Monitoring Action Center (NEMAC) as of 10 a.m. Monday, 234 people were arrested over alleged vote-buying.
Of the total, 155 were at the NCRPO while 31 in Calabarzon, eight in Bicol and Western Visayas regions and the rest were in various areas in other provinces.
The PNP recorded a total of 23 election-related violent incidents during the election day in 2016 and eight incidents in 2010 and 2013 elections.
The Comelec, meanwhile, noted numerous violations of the liquor ban.
As of 2 a.m. on Monday, Jimenez disclosed that 175 have already been arrested for violating the liquor ban.
The 175 are those involved in the 34 reports of liquor ban violations nationwide.
"This is still much lower than the incidents during the corresponding period in the 2016 elections,” said Jimenez.
Since the eve of Election Day until 11:59 p.m. Monday, the selling, furnishing, offering, buying, serving, or taking intoxicating liquor is considered as a prohibited act.
An election offense carries the penalty of one to six years imprisonment, removal of right to vote, and disqualification from holding public office. (With HDT/SunStar Philippines)