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Priest asks religious groups: What have we done to end vote buying?

By JOEY NACALABAN
Correspondent .

VOTE buying and vote selling may continue to proliferate and become some sort of a “tradition,” and a Roman Catholic priest asked what has been done about this problem by various religious groups.

St. Agustine Cathedral priest Monsignor Percious Cabunoc said churches, religious schools, and government agencies have failed to put an end to the practice of selling and buying votes every election season in the country.

He said these sectors failed to really make citizens understand the “sanctity” of the ballots.

“Mao na akong katingad-an kay adunay mga graduate sa mga iladong religious school unya mga bright ug maayo man unta. Pero sa dihang nahimo nang mga politiko mao namay gapamalit sa boto,” Cabunoc said.

He said that on the day of the filing of the certificates of candidacy, many candidates go to church to seek the blessings of priests.

And yet, he said, the same politicians have no fear in doing violating election laws which he called immoral practices.

Cabunoc said he doubts if the police would be able to arrest and win convictions against vote buyers and the vote sellers.

“If the law is implemented, it is only good at the start but they don’t sustain it,” he said.

The “menace,” Cabunoc said, is like the drug problem: the more people are reminded of its negative effects, the more it becomes rampant.

He complained about the “very slow” judicial system in the country, and rarely sends erring politicians to jail.

But Cabunoc said he and othert priests would continue reminding parishioners not to sell their votes.

“They should only vote for candidates whom they think are worthy to be leaders,” he said.

Meanwhile, Commission on Elections regional director Renato Magbutay reminded voters that there would only be one ballot box inside each polling precinct.

The box, Magbutay said, is for both the SK and barangay elections.

He said teachers who would serve in today’s elections would not be confused because the ballots are color-coded.

“Black for the barangay, and red for the SK. So, it’s very easy,” Magbutay said.

At the end of the election, he said, counting of ballots would immediately follow.

“The first ballots to be attended to are those of the barangay candidates, then the SK will follow,” he said.

Magbutay said the problem starts when “these politicians start giving projects or doleouts using government funds in favor of their chosen candidates during the campaign period.”

He said there is no law that penalizes government officials for campaigning for their bets.

In situations like this, Magbutay said, no Comelec provision or election guideline is violated but it raised a question on delicadeza because the barangay election is supposed to be a non-partisan activity.

“But just the same, we cannot avoid or stop these politicians from doing so. They could be congressional representatives, city mayors, city councilors, or governors. They can have their candidates in the barangay,” Magbutay said.

But he said supporting a barangay candidate using government resources is illegal.

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