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Albay prelate expresses disgust over vote buying

By Rhaydz B. Barcia

BISHOP Joel Z. Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi expressed disgust over partisan politics and failure of the Commission on Elections massive vote-buying during the concluded Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE).

In an open letter read before the Sunday masses across the Albay province, the prelate and the clergy of the diocese of Legazpi expressed deep disappointment in the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) for not upholding their strong initial stance against rampant election violations, such as early campaigning and vote-buying.

The letter criticizes the partisan nature of the recently concluded elections.

“We were deeply elated when during the preparatory state of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE), the Comelec appeared to have acquired the political will and declared their intention to strictly enforce the pertinent election laws. In so many press releases, the Comelec came out strongly against early campaigning and vote-buying, in all its forms. From the Commissioner down to the municipal registrars, they gave the impression that they meant business,” he said.

No less than the President himself declared, Baylon said. “We will enforce laws against vote-buying. However, all these pronouncements turned out to be all sound and fury, for before, during and after the elections all the evils that the Comelec vowed to prosecute, reared their ugly heads once again,” he said.

Baylon said that two days before the elections, vote-buying was blatant. “There were reports of politicians who are planning to run in the 2025 elections, financing the vote-buying activities, despite the non-partisan character of the BSKE. Comelec: “Keep Barangay polls non-partisan,” he said.

He also cited the 2,500 teachers refusing to serve for fear for their safety and so the media reports wherein there are 19 deaths related to BSKE, and the PNP reported 39 violent incidents in BSKE.

And yet, the Comelec and the military declared that the BSKE was generally peaceful. The bottom line is, to our mind, the Comelec despite its broad power and resources, miserably failed to “walk its talk”, the prelate said.

The BSKE preview of the upcoming 2025 elections

Baylon said that the concluded BSKE result is the prelude of the midterm election in 2025.

“Looking at all these, we now believe that the BSKE was a “proxy fight” by protagonists in the 2025 elections, as it was observed that prospective candidates for 2025 were actively financing the vote-buying activities of the BSKE candidates. And all the while we thought, as we were told, that BSKE should be non-partisan. Quo vadis, Philippine politics?” Baylon said.

Message to the people

The letter also calls upon the electorate to choose leaders based on character and competence rather than money and intimidation, urging a collective move towards a society founded on truth and justice.

“When will we ever learn to elect candidates not on the basis of money, popularity and intimidation, but on character and competence? Every time we vote on the basis of frauds, we push back the progress of our province and country many times over. Every time we fail to have HOPE (Honest and Peaceful Election), we the people are always the losers,” he said.

“When shall we have the courage to act, justify and make the truth, honesty and integrity reign in our lives? When do we start to dismantle and eradicate these systematic evils of corruption and begin to build a society that is God-fearing and honorable, truthful, and just?” the Catholic official said.

As your pastors, it is our prophetic role that urges us to denounce evil, and we will never stop, no matter how bleak the situation becomes, because our hope does not come from anything temporal. Ultimately, good will triumph, because we have a God who will never allow evil to triumph over good. His spirit continues to work in and through us---and sometimes even in spite of us, Baylon said.

The prelate also lauded the members of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) Volunteers, as well as the teachers and all those who have exercised their duties honestly. The Bishop and the Legazpi Clergy commend PPCRV volunteers, dutiful teachers, and candidates who resisted vote-buying, encouraging an increase in such honest public servants.

“We extend our sincere thanks to the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) Volunteers, as well as the teachers and all those who have exercised their duties honestly for the love of our country,” Baylon said.

The Diocese of Legazpi prelate also lauded the candidates who did not buy votes despite the overwhelming pressure.

“Finally, we have high praises for those candidates who did not buy votes despite the overwhelming pressure that they might have felt. And to those who won without buying votes our sincere congratulations and fervent wishes that their tribe may increase---our new breed of honest public servants,” he said.


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