The PNP says at least 33 people have been killed since the election period started.
Maribojoc, Bohol – Citing massive vote-buying by his opponent in the gubernatorial race in Bohol, former Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco announced he would file a petition for failure of election, a move he described as “the last one legal option to right an infirmed election.”
The former priest turned rebel turned government official ran for the tightly contested post against former President Gloria Arroyo’s Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, who is currently House Deputy Speaker.
As of May 14, 2019, tabulation returns for the position remained incomplete due to some technical issues, and the tally showed 325,342 votes for Yap and 322,232 for Evasco.
He was trailing Congressman Yap by 3,110 votes with precinct tallies from barangays in the towns of Tubigon, Panglao and Sagbayan still to be accounted for.
Evasco, President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign manager in 2016, said he was “swamped by reports of vote buying employed by the camp of Congressman Arthur Yap in nearly all towns of the province, including Tagbilaran City.”
He said in a statement he was preparing to file a petition with the Commission on Election to declare a failure of election because of the “province-wide vote buying operation never seen in Bohol before.”
Yap, who ran under the administration ticket PDP-Laban, made no comments on the vote-buying allegations but said there was no failure of election. “I have won this election. All that needs to be done is to finish the count of the eight remaining clusters,” he told reporters at the provincial capital.
Evasco, who ran under the Nationalist People’s Coalition and was endorsed by Duterte, said the extent of vote-buying was such that “all those who played by the rules, and adhered to the law, were buried in the avalanche of denominations prior to and more so during election day.”
The Comelec, Evasco said, may or may not grant this petition, but “the more important consideration is that all those who joined me in this journey will avail of the last one legal option to right an infirmed election.”
Both the Comelec and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have reported massive vote-buying across the Philippines days before the election.
Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said vote-buying is worse this year than in the 2016 elections, with reports showing that those involved are local candidates.
PNP chief General Oscar Albayalde said his office has received reports of vote-buying “left and right” ahead of Monday’s elections. The PNP has arrested 230 persons in connection with this election violation since the start of the election period last January, he said.
Explaining his decision to file an election protest, Evasco said: “The first ones that came to mind were the candidates who stood up … with my cause for a clean, honest, accurate, meaningful and peaceful elections,” he said in the statement.
It was a vision also pushed by Bishop Albert Uy of the Diocese of Tagbilaran when the prelate initiated the signing of a covenant with candidates for the purpose of preventing electoral dishonesty, like vote buying.
Bishop Uy, in his Facebook account, posted a banner message May 14 on his timeline saying: “I am so proud of all candidates who did not buy votes. Elected or not, YOU ARE A BIG WINNER. Thank you for giving us an added reason to hope.”
Evasco also posted on his FB account. “More witnesses are coming (out) for the massive vote-buying, harassment and intimidation.”