MANILA, Philippines – Common features in past electoral exercises, “Guns, Goons and Gold”, were again at work when President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III led 54 million qualified Filipinos to vote on Monday during the barangay elections .

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Atty. Sixto Brilliantes said they received reports of vote-buying, violence, and ballot snatching from their field offices and from the Philippine National Police (PNP) which has been subbed to help ensure the conduct of free, clean and honest village polls.

PNP Senior Superintendent Reuben Theodor Sindac disclosed that on Sunday evening, a total of 30 election-related violent incidents, mostly involving guns, were reported, killing a total of 22 people including eight councilmen, 11 civilians, and three village captains.

Moreover, National Police spokesman Wilben Mayor said at least 69 grenades, 289 explosives 452 firearms and 3,870 pieces of ammunition had been confiscated from gun-ban violators.

Police also reported that on Sunday Morning, armed men kidnapped a chairman running for re-election in Tandung Ahas village in Lamitan City, Basilan.

However, Sindac said that the whole Monday was generally peaceful compared to the village election conducted in 2010 which concurred with the presidential polls.

Brilliantes agreed with Sindac’s assessment, describing the reported cases of violence, vote-buying and ballot snatching as isolated cases as he pointed out that there are no major problems that would adversely affect the voting as a whole.

PARTISAN and MORE VIOLENT

Former ambassador and Chairperson of Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), Henrietta Tita De Villa, believed that the barangay election this year has become partisan and more violent.

“Violence has really escalated. Vote-buying, too, and sadly even vote-selling,” De Villa said.

Moreover, De Villa pointed out that the “usual” problems – voters not finding their names in the official Election Day Computerized Voters List (EDCVL), violence, and vote-buying – are hounding today’s barangay polls as in previous years.

She also stated that there are less PPCRV volunteers in today’s polls compared to the previous national elections.

PPCRV has only 100,000 volunteers out in the field for the barangay elections compared to the 370,000 volunteers on May and 670,000 in the 2010 national elections.

De Villa explained that this is because their volunteers have to take a leave from poll duties if they have relatives running, and since it was a barangay election, more of their volunteers are connected to the candidates.

“We have to keep our being non-partisan,” she added.

Meanwhile, a PPCRV volunteer in Cotabato was punched by a barangay chairman candidate who refused to leave the polling precinct after voting.

“We urge our volunteers to report incidence of violence to the PNP and the AFP. Makipag-ugnayan. We are always part of the security team,” De Villa said.

She encouraged voters to directly report election-related offenses to the Board of Election Tellers (BET) for the cases to be included in the official precinct minutes.

On the other hand, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said that since the village is the basic institution of the society, every citizen is responsible for the results of the barangay elections.

Coloma also said that good governance starts with the selection of good village leaders who are the chairman and the councilors.

“Let us ensure that those to be elected barangay chairmen and councilors are capable of moving the people’s welfare and that they can be entrusted to take care of the integrity of government funds,” Coloma stressed.

“Our journey to the righteous path begins in the barangay. In every family and home that comprises a barangay, the values for truth, reason and justice are being forged. The goals and dreams of every citizen for a bright future commences in a barangay,” he added. (Joan A. Peñaranda, ABCom/LNU)