Vote buying raps trouble Cavite

A poll watchdog group has filed criminal charges of organized vote buying against Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla, who is allegedly using the family-owned multi-million Island Cove Resort and Leisure Park as a place to illegally issue cash of P200 per voter.

Three members of the non-partisan advocacy group Alyansa ng mga Botanteng Kabitenyo Laban sa Dayaan 2013 (ABKD 2013) recently charged Remulla, who is seeking reelection under the Lakas-NUCD party, and 13 others of violating Section 261 (a) of the Omnibus Election Code, or the anti-vote buying provision, before the Cavite Provincial Prosecutors' Office.

The crime carries a penalty of up to six years imprisonment and disqualification from holding a government position upon conviction.

In a sworn statement, ABKD 2013 conveners James Warren O. Florendo, 24; Cristina A. Cabrera, 25; and Teresita A. Moreno, 54, stated that on April 4, 2013, an acquaintance by the name of Che Florendo sought them out and invited them to a voters' education meeting at the University of Perpetual Help in the town of GMA.

Named in the complaint filed by three members of the Alyansa ng mga Botanteng Kabitenyo Laban sa Dayaan (ABKD 2013) were Ivy Jayne Reyes and Marcos Amutan (both candidates for board member), Leonisa Joanna Virata (candidate for mayor), Renante Tuatis (candidate for vice mayor) and candidates for councilor of General Mariano Alvarez Phlonel Aisa Cortez Gutierrez, Antonio Machado Almoro, Pastor Parado Grabillo Jr., Gerry Tisado Torralba, Jose Serfino Infante, Domingo Malapitan Gunio, Ruel Zata Calix and Rebecca Mendoza Olido.

The invitation was followed by a reminder on April 5, 2013 by one Marivic Pinongcos that ''at about 8 a.m. on April 6, 2013 we should go with others from GMA who were fetched by a passenger jeep in a place in Poblacion 3 to be brought to the University of Perpetual Help.''

The complaint described in detail how organized were the vote-buying operations of the group of Remulla which was called in the meeting the Super Team: ''Inside the UPH gymnasium were four tables where people lined up from barangays San Gabriel, Maderan, Lumbreras and Poblacion 3 and each person was being made to sign on a piece of paper before they are given a sample ballot with the full line-up of the Remulla-Revilla tandem.''

''Later we were shown how to shade the space beside each name of the candidates of the Super Team, and around 9:30 a.m. all the candidates arrived and one-by-one gave speeches and repeatedly said that straight voting must be done,'' said the three complainants in their sworn statement.

''It was Jonvic Remulla himself who said that the meeting was participated in by more or less a thousand people and there would be four more 'bigayan' until the election, just vote straight for the Super Team.''

''The envelopes that each of us got at the back of the stage of the gymnasium of the UPH contained a photograph of Jonvic Remulla and Php200,'' concluded the statement of the complainants, who added that they were given Juice Plus drinks and lemon cupcake before each of them were allowed to go home.