Foodstuffs, household items used to buy votes in Tabuk City

Petra Baguiwen and Wanfred Cosmiano posted these photos on their Facebook walls expressing the wish that the flow of the goods will take place during calamities instead. **

TABUK CITY – Not all residents of this city are pleased with the practice of politicians of wooing voters with free foodstuffs including rice and culled chicken, noodles and sardines and kitchenware and other small housedhold items as some have taken to social media to express their disgust over the particular vote-buying mode and vote-buying in general.
Retired Episcopal Prime Bishop Renato Abibico shared his Facebook post on May 6, 2016 containing photos of himself holding two small plastic bags with a caption informing that he just received “some soap, salt, sugar, noodles, vinegar and soy sauce.”
The caption further said that the one who handed the bags to him did not know who he (Abibico) was but on the other hand, the name of a candidate was written on the box of soap.
In another post, Abibico chided the candidates for their very low regards for voters as manifested in the meagre and cheap groceries they try to win votes with.
“How to beat vote buying? Get what they give and vote according to the dictate of your conscience. There is no truth in the ‘butot’ threat. They will not know if you will vote for them or not. Let’s teach this vote buying politicians a lesson,” Abibico urged voters in one post.
The “butot” belief is the main reason foodstuffs are among the means of buying votes most preferred by politicians in this province because according to the loose interpretation of the belief, a voter who receives and eats food given by a politician in exchange for his vote who does not eventually vote for the candidate will be afflicted with the “butot,” an incurable and mysterious swelling of the stomach.
Asked to comment on the intepretation, Rev. Luis Aoas, an expert in Kalinga culture, said that the “butot” belief is alien to the practice of vote buying.
He explained that the “butot” is supposed to happen when someone suspected of killing or harming another person who denies the charge is challenged to eat in the house of the victim and he accepts the dare in an attempt to clear his name.
“If he is guilty of the crime, ‘butot’ will ensue otherwise, no harm will befall him,”Aoas said.
Aoas said that ordinarily, the “butot” is believed to occur when someone perjures himself in a “sapata,”   an indigenous ceremony whereby people accused or suspected of  crimes aver their innocence under pain of supernatural punishment in the event of guilt.
Aoas said that the “sapata” which he describes as an elaborate ceremony is not performed in vote-buying.
On April 30, Episcopal priest Claudio Bagano posted a collage of footstuffs and kitchen items expressing his disappointment with the candidate whom he did not name telling him that he just lost his family’s votes and respect.
“If these candidates show their disrespect of voters by engaging in vote-buying, how can we expect them to respect the populace whom they are supposed to serve after elections? Vote buying is the foundation of structured and massive corruption in government therefore only those who do not buy votes, if any, are worthy to be regarded as honorable,” he would tell the ZigZag Weekly later.
In a Facebook post, Noryn Bagano, wife of Claudio, warned others of the inclusion of expired canned goods in the freebies being distributed even as she slammed the contemptuous manner the electoral process is being treated.
A former politician said that apart from the “butot” bogey, local politicians who resort to buying votes with goods bank on the misguided and shallow sense of gratitude of voters who are swayed by the act of politicians of “remembering” them.
The politician said that the practice of giving of goods to households dates back to the 2004 and 2007 elections because previous to that, the goods such as utensils and chairs were given to organizations and groups but not to individuals and families.
He also said that in previous elections, per household vote-buying was not as blatant as this time because the politicians and their followers pre-identified the free voters and those most likely to be bought.
“Politicians and their people are no longer practicing due diligence thus this indiscriminate manner of bringing goods to households. They insult the professionals and the principled voters,” he said.
He also said that the vote-buying practice is rampant in the locality because the Commission on Elections and other concerned government agencies do not intervene even as he informed that never in the history of the province and the city had a politician been charged for vote buying.
Asked for comment, City Election Officer Annivest Hangdaan said that people should document the giving of the goodies and those involved in the act and to stand as witness to the incident or to confirm the videos or photos.
She explained that the printed name of the candidate on the covers of the freebies do not suffice as evidence.
In many cases, the distribution of the goodies is done at night with the bags or items left at the door or gate of the targeted household. However, for the voters to know from whom the freebies came from, the name of the candidate is printed on any of the items or a campaign leaflet of the candidate is placed in the bag.**Estanislao Albano, Jr.

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