MAJORITY of Cebu City’s candidates promised yesterday not to threaten opponents or their supporters or pay for votes, and to accept “whoever will be the choice of our constituents.”
These were among the promises contained in a peace covenant that more than 20 candidates signed yesterday afternoon, in the presence of election officials, police and religious leaders.
Mayor Michael Rama and Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella led the delegation from Team Rama, while most of the candidates of Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK), including former mayor and congressman Tomas Osmeña, failed to attend the activity.
The Philippine National Police, Dilaab Movement and an interfaith group, along with the Commission on Elections (Comelec), organized the activity. It took place in the UCCP Bradford Church on Osmeña Boulevard.
Of the BOPK candidates, only Cebu City North District Rep. Raul del Mar, Councilor Margarita “Margot” Osmeña and aspiring councilors Danny Pacaña and Bonel Balingit attended.
Also during the activity, del Mar belied reports that he was recently hospitalized for a week.
“I’ve never been in the hospital this month, I am very well, physically fit and mentally alert,” the congressman said.
Del Mar said he received several calls from friends asking about his health, but he assured them that he is healthy and has kept on going to campaign activities like the pulong-pulong and handshaking visits.
“That’s disinformation and I don’t know why they have to do that when they can easily verify. They could have gone to Barangay Apas last night (Thursday), where I had four pulong-pulong and I’m even going to another pulong-pulong tonight (Friday night) and I’m doing it every night. I don’t know what they will get out of these lies,” he said.
In an interview after the activity, Councilor Osmeña clarified that her husband intended to attend the signing.
In fact, she added, Tomas went to Bradford Church earlier than the 2 p.m. schedule but had to leave before the activity could start because of other commitments.
The BOPK also denied reports that an airline company did not allow former congressman Osmeña to board a flight last week because he was ill.
Margot said that Tomas will go to Comelec to sign the covenant.
Cebu City Election Officer Atty. Edwin Cadungog said candidates who failed to show up during the signing yesterday may go to their office to sign anytime before the election.
“Those who weren’t able to attend may have some important commitment to attend to but that doesn’t mean that they will not follow what is stated in the peace covenant. They can sign later on,” Cadungog said.
In the covenant, candidates vowed to keep the elections honest, orderly and peaceful, in accordance with Comelec’s rules.
They also committed not to perform acts “inimical to public interest” such as the use of threats and violence against contending candidates and their supporters; immoral vote-buying activities; cheating with the use of government resources; and taking undue advantage of the other candidates.
“We promise to strictly observe and obey this covenant, take responsibility for the illegal acts of the followers, and to accept whoever will be the choice of our constituents, setting aside our pride and our self-interest,” read a portion of the covenant.
The Cebu City Police Office director, Senior Supt. Benjamin Santos, said that by signing the peace pact, candidates vowed not to use guns and goons from the campaign period to Election Day to avoid any conflict.
“This peace covenant is very important for PNP because by getting their commitments, mababawasan yung trabaho naming (they will help us do our job) in securing the election,” he said.
So far, Santos said, they’ve yet to monitor the presence of goons and illegal firearms in the city.
Santos said, however, that rampant vote-buying in the country remains the main challenge of the police force. The issuance of a resolution from Comelec that allows them to arrest people holding substantial amounts of money is a great help, he added.
In the May 2013 elections, the Comelec limited cash withdrawals to P100,000 per day five days before Election Day and on the day itself. It was supposed to be a way to prevent vote-buying.
Comelec Resolution 9688 also prohibited “the transportation and/or carrying of cash exceeding P500,000 or its equivalent in any foreign currency from May 8 to 13, 2013.” (Sun.Star could not confirm as of Friday night whether Comelec has issued a similar resolution for this year’s elections, a little over four weeks away.)
Fr. Carmelo Diola of Dilaab also asked candidates not to resort to vote-buying.
“We asked them to say no to vote-buying because it’s irrational, self-defeating, degrading and it imposes a higher expense for candidates so it doesn’t make sense gyud (at all),” he said.