By JAZMIN R. BONIFACIO
CALBAYOG CITY, Samar
– Barangay elections is fast approaching and Samar provinces town
folks believe that they will be entering, again, into a season of
`kidnappings’ or locally known as `tago or hakot’, a dirty tactics
used by some political candidates in the recent immediate past
national and local election.
While doing my
fieldwork on electoral politics in the First and Second Districts of
Samar, I was flabbergasted to find out the extent and sophistication
played by some politicians prior to and during election day.
It has been observed
that the May 14, 2007 election in Samar was marred by a more brazen
way of cheating such as; massive vote buying, massive
disenfranchisement, misreading or non-reading of votes in his or her
favor, ballot switching, mis-tallying of votes, terrorism or coercion
of electors, the use of fake ballots, the preparation of ballots
before election day, the allowing of voters to bring out ballots from
the precincts the systematic way of cheating called `Lansadera’.
In the places I went
to like Catbalogan, Gandara, Sta. Margarita, Calbayog City, and some
other towns, voters seemed to have grown inured to vote-buying. The
pay-offs were getting bigger and better with every election. For many
voters, especially the poor, elections at least provide the
opportunity to make some easy money. And with those candidates who
refrained from it often lost. Thus, even candidates who appeared to be
well-meaning in the quest for public service succumbed to them
accepting it as a fact of Philippine politics that one just had to
learn and live with it otherwise…
And as what has been
observed days before the elections pay-off, money had already been
prepared – thus local banks tend to run short of bills or sometimes
have a bank ran at best.
A critically tense
period comes on the night before the elections. Everyone waits and
watches the other’s movement, candidate’s, leaders, relative or
trusted aide hands out the cash to the voters assigned to him, making
sure that their opponents from the other camp cannot make a
In hotly contested
areas in Samar like Gandara, Sta. Margarita and Calbayog City and some
island towns in Samar namely Tagapul-an, Almagro, Sto Niño, etc.,
election eve is `ora de peligro’ in so many ways. Armed men allegedly
being maintained by politicians candidates move about in shadows
effectively disrupting the vote-buying, at least of one side. This
includes outright intimidation, bribery, terrorism, coercion of
electors and sometimes actual execution occurs.
Seemingly, but most
obvious, these was not done to the electoral populace particularly and
singularly but included as well those nominated, selected, chosen and
designated guardians and protectors of the people’s constitutional
right of suffrage-clean and unmolested.
Free and fair
elections are fundamental in any democratic policy because without
elections, it will be impossible for us to claim that the people are
sovereign. It is from these words that our rule, regulations and
policies for elections were patterned and promulgated and made into
order and to be followed.
Here are some of the
interviews we randomly conducted (names withheld for obvious
M.A., 51 yrs old – `…a
candidate has so many ways to ascertain that you vote for him…OPEN
BALLOT has long been practiced in our barangay and armed goons of
incumbent candidates local officials looms in the surrounding scene
supervising the operation…a voter, while voting, is allowed to be
accompanied by a chosen poll assistance orderly to help you out write
your candidates & after finishing shows it to the poll chairman if
everything you wrote down is correct as required…or you are to follow
certain writing arrangement of candidates from the senatorial,
congressional, gubernatorial etc., to the last name required…or you
are to write the middle name of the candidate or just write the middle
initial of a candidate they are paid to vote for, or will be paid
after they have voted and again to be shown to the poll chairman and
or a poll watcher…these all have been done in this election.’
D.C., 56 yrs old – `…guin
gamit san liberal an LANSADERA…where a genuine and official ballot is
made to be spirited out of the polling place with the alleged
connivance of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI). The ballot is
filled up by someone in a specific place and then given to a
registered voter and who goes to their assigned precinct gets a ballot
and pretends to write his candidates but cast the ballot previously
filled out secretly, gets the ink in his nail; thereafter, he brings
the blank ballot he received (and did not use) back to the safe house
where it is also filled up. These went on and on till the last paid
voter has voted.’
T. B., 34yrs. Old – `…hakot
ngan tago ginhimo liwat nira labi na san mga tricycle drivers… (fetch
& hide) took place in
a day before elections. It begins with an epigrammatic message like…`pinakadto
ka ni Mayor’…with no further explanation you are whisked away to a
house, resort, or a hotel where you are to wait for the mayor. Through
out the wait-in-captivity the willing victims are treated like kings,
meals are served, drinks and all other needs you cared for are
provided with friendliness till the last hour of the election. As you
go out from the place you will be given envelopes containing money –
the least P2,000 or P3,000 pesos and an indelible ink placed unto the
proper finger nail of one who had cast his/her ballot and made to
pretend they have just came from voting.’
J. C., 63 yrs old – `…damo
san mga botante han NP in wara didto san listahan san local Comelec
nga igin paskin sa kada mga presento… some electors, mostly from the
NP loyalist, did not find their names in the list of voters posted by
Comelec in the polling precincts. The list of voters provided by the
local Comelec was different from the one posted outside polling places
which in turn also differs from the Voters Registration Record (VRR)
with the chairman. This faulty information caused confusion, delay in
the voters and some never even had a chance to vote… during the
counting at the precinct level, cheating is done through the
misreading of the ballots. Sometimes, the names on the ballots are not
read, at other times, names not written thereon are read, thus, votes
are illegally added to or subtracted from the tally.’
Meanwhile, as the dusk
of the 14th progressed deeper unto the night & turned to dawn at the
15th of May, witnessing the cheating done at the precinct level
compared faintly to the cheating occurring at the municipal/city halls
in most places we went too.
boxes, missing ballot boxes, all individual ballots in some ballot
boxes obviously evident at a glance that it was all written by one
hand, numerical ballot returns on the official ER’s did not compare
the same with the actual numerical count of ballots in the ballot
It was observed that
some ballot boxes from the precinct were brought to a gym or an
specific house and there were opened…allegedly, this was
dagdag-bawas a technique made fashionable during the advent of the
computer counted electoral returns on the 1986 & 2004 elections –
again this 2007 several news dailies bannered this election phenomenon
and made into a `hot pandesal’ in the early morning broadcast.
In the resultant
unprecedented electoral results, with the so called Liberal party
candidates affiliated to Lakas-CMD, won in all electoral posts in the
municipalities, city and congressional district – a first ever in
voters, buying voters, force and intimidation with threat to life of
voters won the elections for the people, for the candidates, and the
government of the Philippines!
`…Quo Vadis’ my
until…`cheating by the people, for the people and of the
people’…remains unchecked by a more or less credible Commission on
Election democracy in the Philippines will always be an endangered
specie – and the hush hush `POPULAR WILL’ will be subverted!
City of Borongan? Yes!!!
By SENTAY BELIZAR-QUITORIO
Samar – Weeks ago people in this municipality were confronted by a
dilemma of apprehensions and ambivalence, whether to vote “YES” or
“NO” for its city hood.
About 43.33% (13,650)
of the 31,505 registered voters voted, where 10,176 (74.5%) said “YES”
while 3,426 (25.1%) voted “NO” with a margin of 6,750 in favor of the
Immediately the local
officials prepared for a celebration at the town plaza that night of
June 20, with fireworks and programs with speeches of thanksgiving for
It was noted though
that the plebiscite last June 20, 2007 has caused some divisive
atmosphere. The affirmative group composed of elected and appointed
officials of the LGU gave the following answers to the basic
Q: Will there be
increase of taxes if Borongan becomes a city?
A: In truth, local
taxes might even be reduced (No further explanation on this
statement). If Borongan becomes a city there will be no increase of
taxes in the next five years according to the provisions of RA 9394
(the Act creating Borongan as a city subject to the ratification by
the people through a plebiscite). However if Borongan will not become
a city this year, a schedule of tax increase is set next year, 2008.
Instead of an additional problem on tax increase, cityhood will be an
advantage, because tax increase will be ruled by the provisions of the
Q: Will there be an
increase of prices of the basic commodities?
A: The increase of
prices is not dependent on the cityhood, but rather on the law of
“supply and demand”, competitions of entrepreneurs and businessmen,
prices of gasoline and oil products and others. There is even a
possibility to decrease the prices if businessmen and investors will
flock in and we will be able to produce our own needs which we still
buy from other provinces because of lack of capital.
Q: What are the
advantages of becoming a city?
A: 1. Increase of IRA
(Internal Revenue Allotment) from Php60M to Php240M. This minimizes
the possible increase of local taxes, because there will be enough
funds to use in serving the public.
2. A greater
opportunity to get more funds for development from other financing
Institutions because of the “sweet smelling” and “good sound” to be
called “City of Borongan”. This is because for them (institutions), a
city has a better standard of “good governance” (How can this be
3. Greater possibility
of inviting more investors, and eventually more job generations and by
opportunities, and the law of “supply and demand” more producers and
increased competitions in the market will reduce the prices of
products and commodities and services.
4. We will have more
funds for social services such as Senior citizens, Children and Women,
Youth, Persons with Disabilities, Single Parents, Indigents. The
possibility of having a city hospital, with enough supply of medicine.
More scholars and funds for education sector.
5. Taxes from Real
Property goes to the City Government and the province will not get a
share anymore. This means that Barangay will also have an increased
share of funds. The environment will be more protected and will
establish a sanitary land fill with modern systems of solid waste
management. More funds for peace and order programs, to eradicate
illegal drugs and other illegal activities and intensify the fight
against crime. Funds for Infrastructures such as drainage system and
Q: What about
A: It will depend on
the commitment and honesty of both elected and appointed officials who
will implement “good governance and an active and vigilant people to
watch.” The local government will exhaust all possible means of
transparent governance through the Tri Media (radio, print and TV and
even the Net).
Meanwhile, some people
wanted to speak their minds and honestly answered the “WHY YES or NO”.
Barangay Cabong (an ex-seminarian and college graduate): “The Local
officials have not shown clear and concrete directions as to plans for
the next 5 to 10 years. What to do and what to be are very important
questions. If there is a plan well…there are no hard documents to
prove their claim. How can they prove their readiness to cope with the
demands of cityhood? No drainage, No clear Environmental Protection
Plan, No livelihood capability, No skills…NO STABLE ELECTRICITY”.
Government Employee (DOLE): “No alternative industries, livelihood, no
other source of income except government. We will be obliged to raise
revenue because of lack of alternative employment. People will be
burdened by taxes and increased prices of basic commodities”
Paquito C. Padro alyas
Tita Daryl (casual employee): “I like seeing Borongan becoming a city
so that I will not go to
Manila anymore…para mag shopping at para sosyal na ang Borongan.
Grace, student ESNCHS:
“Parang nakakahiya maging city kasi palaging brownout, wala tayong
airport, and pangit nga mga roads, parang walang tamang
pa, baka sila-sila lang ang maghati-hati sa more or less P275M na
IRA…’yong sabi nilang allotment galing sa ..ewan ko po”
Anonymous: “It is good
to become a city, because we will have more chances to develop, but
people has to be vigilant, that the money does not go to the pockets
of the officials and implementers of projects through the SOP
(standard operating procedures where a portion or percentage of the
fund goes to the chief of office or official elected or appointed who
are implementing the project) or the elected officials might adapt the
congressional pork barrel idea, so they have a clear share of the
funds and very often does not give reports as to how these funds were
spent. We might see mansions, luxury cars and expensive lifestyles of
officials than roads and bridges, sanitary land fills and alleviated
Dr. Reinerio Zamora,
chief Provincial Health Office: “If we cannot be a city now, then
when? We might not be qualified under the new requirements, we can
work together for a real progress…all other development plans will be
carried out if we will unite and work.”
Antonio Sacmar, Board
Secretary, Sangguniang Bayan: “Yes to cityhood and yes to progress of
Borongan…but we have to cooperate by being vigilant as a people to
ensure that funds are wisely and honestly spent for no other reason
but development and for the welfare and interest of the majority.”
The local church in
cooperation with NMFREL/PPCRV sponsored a forum where both “YES” and
“NO” to city hood of Borongan were given the opportunity to present
their questions and clarification. This was aimed at putting some
clarity to arguments of both sides to help the people make a wise
decision. The following arguments and questions came out:
Concrete plans as to
what to do with the P275M. How much should be allotted to the
following services: health, social services, infrastructures,
education, environment, livelihood activities and programs and other
How can we participate
in your transparent governance and good governance nga asya iton iyo
attraction hiton mga investors, what about your plans for electricity
and other concerns of investors? How can we participate in checking
how much “SOP” do you demand for every project implemented?
You said taxes and
prices of commodities will not increase, then, where shall we get more
revenues nga magigindemand if we do not have other employment
alternatives except government employment?
Please furnish every
Boronganon a plan for cityhood. Ngan kon diin ngatanan nga plano para
han paggamit han dugang nga IRA mahibaruan han tawo.
In your answer to the
question on corruption, nasering la kamo nga “madepende ine han
sincerity, honesty and commitment han mga opisyales…ano iton iyo
karuyag sidngon hine deri talaga kami makakalaum hin totoo ha iyo? ha
Yana dida hit
annual funds kada chief mayda na niya traveling allowance, kada
elected official mayda daman. Mayda daman niyo plano nga pag adapt han
pork barrel nga ideya tikang ha congresso, Kon diin an iyo pagkuha han
“SOP” ha kada project deri nahibabaruan han tawo…takay and iyo
senisering nga transparency?
Heroes of the May 14
By Philippine Information Agency (PIA 8)
TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte
– People of Eastern Visayas do not to wait long or look far to be
able to find a hero or to be reminded of how thin the line is between
being a hero and being a villain.
To know that the odds
are so high that only through the perishing of your life will the
minions survive, that's love. That's heroism.
This is what struck
the author upon learning the heroic deed of the three members of the
Board of Election Inspectors of Barangay Tula, Paranas,
Samar. Chairman Hilario Abalos, poll clerk Socorro Paconio and
third member Salvacion Cañete risked their lives protecting and saving
the accountable election documents during the
May 14, 2007
Barangay Tula is a
remote barangay of Paranas, Samar which is composed of 365 people in
56 households. It could be reached by boat crossing the rapids.
The day before the
elections, the members of the Board of Election Inspectors, bringing
with them the ballot box and the election paraphernalia, took the boat
going to Barangay Tula. Because of strong currents, the boat capsized
but the teachers held on to the election paraphernalia and waited for
thirty minutes before they were saved.
Indeed, a hero is
someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with
his freedom. The three teachers as soon as they reached dry lands,
laboriously and patiently dried the election materials so that the
voters at Barangay Tula could use them the following day.
And so it came to pass
that the voting in the Barangay was successfully implemented. On the
way home to the town proper of Paranas, the three teachers bravely
crossed the rapids again.
Once more, the boat
capsized, but this time, the three teachers have safely wrapped the
ballot box and the election returns with a plastic bag. That is how
the sacred votes of the people of the remote barangay
Tula were saved.
The Commission on
Elections in Region 8 headed by Regional Director Zacarias Zaragosa
lost no time in recognizing the heroic deeds of these three teachers.
On May 20, Comelec 8 invited the three teachers to the Comelec Office
in Tacloban and gave them awards of Commendation.
Supervisor Lemuel Yangao and Police Inspector Emmanuel Arteche of the
Paranas PNP accompanied the three teachers during the simple awarding
There are other heroes
besides Mr. Abalos, Ms. Paconio and Ms. Cañete, during the last
elections in Region 8. Take the case of a politician who did well
during her entire government service but opted not to run anymore “so
that the people will not be exposed to too much corruption.”
A hero, indeed, is the
politician who despite of being left alone stood beside his political
comrade knowing that his local government has been taken cared of all
these years by the same comrade. True, real heroes are men who fall
and fail and are flawed, but win out in the end because they've stayed
true to their ideals and beliefs and commitments.
Heroes are the voters
in Region 8 who stood by their principles and voted for the candidates
of their choice despite temptations of gold and threats of guns.
And why are we writing
about these heroes? Because of the realization that courage is more
exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier.
We do not have to
become heroes over night. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing
that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared,
discovering we have the strength to stare it down.
Winning the war
against hunger and poverty
By JAZMIN BONIFACIO
May 2, 2007
TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte
– Millions of Filipinos still go hungry despite recent government
claims of economic gains. A recent survey by the National Nutrition
Council here in the region revealed that hunger incidence in the
Philippines has increased to 16.9% reflected a similar situation in
the region and all over the Visayas area. And said increased indicates
a consistent increase in the prevalence of hunger incidence of not
being able to eat in a day.
Records of the
Operation Timbang here showed that for 0-5yrs old children it was seen
here in the region, the provinces of Samar, Northern Samar, and Leyte
scored high in the incidence of underweight children. OPT records
showed that Northern Samar
has 29.85% underweight children. Samar came out next at 29.78% then
Leyte at 19.89%. Eastern Samar came in fourth at 19.29 followed by
Biliran at 17.86% and
Southern Leyte with the least incidence of underweight children at
At the city level
Calbayog indicated at 16.75%. Ormoc came in third at 18.09% and Maasin
City, awarded as one of the most child-friendly municipalities during
the recent National Nutrition Awards, showed a 7.85% incidence of
And for the total
number of malnourished children, records of OPT for 2005 show that
Northern Samar have a total of 22,514; Samar have 21,366; Leyte have
37,518; Eastern Samar have 11,633; Biliran have 4,128 and Southern
Leyte have 4,840.
It was learned that
among the cities here in the region, Ormoc has the most number of
malnourished children numbering to 5,028.
City came next with a total of 4,335 followed by Tacloban city with
3,875 and Maasin with only 904.
government may seem serious in investing in a Strong Republic that
eventually crushes terrorism in our country even at the expense of
Records showed that
the proposed national budget since for 2003 amounting to P804-billion
earmarked P37.8 billion for the Armed Forces. P5 Billion of the
military outlay will go to the AFP's modernization program.
P55-million intelligence fund will go to the Office of the President.
It also increases the proposed budget of the Dept. of National Defense
by P3.7 billion from P38.8 billion to P42.5 billion. On the other
hand, the PNP will receive bulk of the P2.2 billion hike in the budget
of the Dept. of Interior and Local Government.
spending and debt servicing will have the bulk of the national budget,
the remaining fund will be shared by other government agencies. At
least 70 state colleges and universities will be affected by big
budget cuts amounting to P232.72 million. Budget restrictions prompted
state colleges and universities to increase tuition and implement
other commercialization schemes. Merging of state colleges and
universities is carried out as part of cost-cutting measures.
The Dept. of Education
gets P1Billion more. However, Dept. of Education maintenance and other
operating expenses were cut. A measly P2billion will be allotted to
school buildings. This runs counter to Art. 14 Section 5 of the 1987
Constitution requiring the government to give the highest budgetary
allocation to education.
Meanwhile, only P1.7
Billion will be spent for housing. According to Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) that
amount will give P8 for every poor Filipino while 25 million Filipinos
do not have decent housing. Health
for Democracy (HEAD) disclosed that public health fund has now been
slashed by 25%. And now, the government spends 60 centavos for the
health of every Filipino. This P16 billion budget was cut from Heart
Center, Chilren's Medical Center, Lung Center and National Kidney
institute, while the AFP Medical Center and the Veterans Hospital will
receive an additional P26 million.
Indeed, this is how
the Macapagal-Arroyo government builds a Strong Republic-crushing the
Filipino people's most urgent demands.
Region 8 alone has
more people with inadequate nutrition, more living in slum conditions
and more without access to water and sanitation. Rural flight leads to
another region wide phenomenon linked to poverty, unchecked
urbanization. Statistically, migrants out earn their brethren in the
fields. But first they must enter an urban milieu that can be openly
Dozens of illegal
slums serving as monuments to misery, neighborhoods with barnyard
animals and mucky kids in the streets were no longer the homes of a
thrifty working class, but embarrassing eyesores. City hall has
repeatedly ordered the squatters out. For this reason, efforts to
tackle the issue are now taking on a greater urgency. The city
government of Tacloban stand or fall based on their ability to deliver
growth at the grass roots-and that's just where the problem is.
Just recently, members
of the Volunteer for the Visayans made an effort again to help and win
war against hunger and poverty in the city. Ethel Mae Arce, Associate
Director of Volunteer for the Visayas said in an interview that they
are now focusing on the implementation of their programs to reduce the
incidence of hunger and their daily feeding programs towards street
children, giving them education and a sustainable livelihood programs
to the parents.
Volunteer for the
Visayas generated more or less Fifty thousand pesos from their donors
and sponsors for these project. Dubbed `Piktaw, Pidal para han
kabubuwason han kabataan' is a walk for a cause project for the street
children of Volunteer for the Visayas here in the city in
collaboration with the City Social Welfare, the Region and Tacloban
City Police, and other Non-government organizations supportive to its
cause. Its primary aims according to Arce, is to save the lives of
these children in the streets. She stressed that `we are engaged in a
combination of measures to fight hunger and poverty, working with
local governments to identify and serve families at the hunger
threshold, and extending livelihood assistance towards the poor family
and the children. And in order to address the problem of malnutrition
among children here in the city and other towns, Arce said that their
office is implementing a daily feeding program which provides a daily
ration of food to children under their custody.
Volunteer for the
Visayans is a non profit, established non government organization that
focuses on community development and international education. Their
international volunteers immerse themselves in a culture foreign to
their own, while educating the local community about the western
world. Volunteer for the Visayans according to Arce is dedicated to
raising funds for local projects. Currently, the group is now focusing
on working with the City Social Welfare Office here and helping to
support a new facility under construction which will be used to house
the street children. They collect donations and basic necessities such
as used clothing, to be distributed to these children, collects also
educational resources to distribute to rural schools where basic books
and school supplies are not available.
Thus, they are
inviting Filipino philanthropist and the rest of the world to
experience life from a Filipino's perspective and experience living in
a country burdened by economic hardships, yet still optimistic about
the country's existence!
specie dies on the shores of Cabay
By SENTAY BELIZAR-QUITORIO
Samar – A 6 feet 4 inches long of a dolphin locally known as “lumod”
was washed very weak on the shores of barangay Cabay this municipality
last March 19 this year.
Romualdo Capatoy a
businessman-environmentalist of Maydolong called the office of the
Provincial Fisheries and Aquatic Resources for help. Together with the
local media the rescue team immediately responded.
A fisherman from the
municipality confirmed that exactly 20 minutes after the dolphin was
carried ashore it died. “Masyado na kamaluya han lumod, takay deri man
kami maaram han amon pagbubuhaton gindara nam ngadto han katab-angan”
(the dolphin was very weak, but we do not know what to do we brought
it to the fresh waters).
Mr. Henry Alura
deputized member/representative of NFARMC (National Fisheries and
Aquatic Resource Management Council) also confirmed the endangered
specie as weak and sick. Normally according to Alura this sea animal
is hard to pin down though trainable, coming near the shore indicates
a need for help.
Evident were three
fresh wounds which according to Mr. Alura and the fishermen were
caused by a blood sucking fish “kimi” which was described further to
be loaded with sting. Alura said the wounds are not enough reason to
cause the death of the specie, it could be something else such as
chronic ailments and the wounds were just contributory factors.
Alura said the need to strengthen the advocacy to protect such
endangered species is deemed necessary. He called on to the local
bureau of the Fisheries and Aquatic resources for strong support.
The devolved agency
of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources through the Office of
the Provincial Agricultural Services said they have no definite first
aid measures for cases like this. According to the office
representative they do not have medicines and clinic readily available
for urgent needs. However, the regional office based in Guiuan Eastern
Samar has a better capacity in terms of expertise and facilities to
treat similar cases.