Thursday, May 27, 2010


I was one of the thousands of Lianga residents who trooped to the Lianga Central Elementary grounds last May 10 and who were eagerly waiting for the chance to vote in this country's first automated elections. Sad to say it was not the exciting or uplifting experience I had anticipated.

First, the weather had been rainy since the previous day and as can be expected whenever that happens the area around the polling precincts was already flooded up to almost knee deep in some spots when I got there at about 10 pm in the morning. Nothing dampens the spirit more than getting sopping wet in the chilling rain and sloshing through dirty flood waters only to find out that when you get to your destination that you have to stand in line for hours and get soaked a little more before you can accomplish what you expected you could breeze through in just a couple of minutes.

Despite the issuance of priority numbers in order to impose some order into the crush of humanity that had descended on the voting precincts, the board of election inspectors in my voting precinct could simply not efficiently accommodate the large turnout of voters eager to try out the new PCOS machines. The fact that the old number of voting precincts have been reduced and "clustered" into fewer units with several hundred voters assigned to it instead of the traditional hundred fifty or so also taxed the capabilities of the new voting system.

As it turned out, I had to return in the afternoon and battle once more the rain, floods and long queues in order to finally get in and vote. In what was a anticlimactic end to a half day ordeal, I got my ballot, made the proper marks on it, fed it to the PCOS machine (which accepted and tallied it with coldblooded efficiency) and got my right forefinger marked with indelible ink in a whole process that just took ten minutes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Altogether, the haul by local standards was not unimpressive. Two bars of laundry soap, four packs of instant noodles, two packs of embutido or steamed meatloaf and some three hundred pesos in cash.

The cash and and other items were all received by the household help in our house in Lianga over the past couple of days from various candidates running for local positions in the May 10 general elections. The local term for the "gifts" is "pahalipay" which in Bisaya is derived from the word "lipay" meaning to be happy. In reality, they are electoral bribes or money and consumer goods used to brazenly buy votes in what is clearly becoming an increasingly overt and disturbing upsurge of this type of electoral misconduct at least in this part of the country.

In past elections, vote-buying was already rampant but even then it was always done covertly and clandestinely in perverse acknowledgement, perhaps by those who have always done it, of its clearly illegal and immoral nature. Thus the monies used to buy votes were usually delivered a day or so before polling day and often in the dead of night by trusted couriers who would stealthily knock on doors and windows like cat burglars to wake up voters and their families. If goods were used to solicit votes, they were often inconspicuously wrapped and handed over to their intended recipients as surreptitiously as possible.

Yet in the days leading up to the May 10 elections, many candidates running for municipal and provincial posts have become more brazen in their vote-buying activities to the point that many of them had openly gone house to house in vehicles conspicuously displaying their campaign banners and streamers and openly distributing money and consumer items marked with their names or clipped to sample ballots and campaign handbills.

Friday, May 7, 2010


If there is one thing that marked the recent final campaign rally of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD administration party in Lianga which was held the other night at the community stage inside the municipal park, it was the surprising level of vituperation and invective that emanated from the lips of one of the party stalwarts that spoke onstage. And all of it was directed at the leading lights of the Liberal Party which is mounting the only viable opposition to the Lakas party's iron grip on political power in the province of Surigao del Sur.

Lakas which, as a national political machine, has kept President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in power for more than half a decade now has also been the means by which the powerful Pimentel-Ty clan have dominated provincial politics here for the past nine years. It has elected and returned to power Gov. Vicente Pimentel Jr. since 2001 and now his brother, Johnny Pimentel, the current provincial administrator, is eyeing to inherit the office that the current governor is prohibited by law from occupying for more than three consecutive terms.

The Pimentel-Ty clan is closely allied with Rep. Philip Pichay who represents the province's first district in Congress. Philip is the brother of Prospero "Butch" Pichay, the MalacaƱang confidant, former congressman, 2007 senatorial candidate and incumbent presidential adviser on political affairs who is also currently chairman of the Local Water Utilities Administration. The political partnership between the Pichays and the Pimentel-Ty clan had been the engine that originally powered that clan to power in the province and the Pichays are counting on the Pimentel-Ty political machine to insure a second term for the re-electionist Philip whose congressional district happens to include Lianga.