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Philippine bishop attacks early election vote buying

Archbishop Villegas says politicians were seeking to influence voters early by giving them 'aid payments'

Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila

Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila

Published: November 24, 2021 09:17 AM GMT

Updated: November 24, 2021 10:47 AM GMT

Philippine bishop attacks early election vote buying

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan. (Photo: Karl Romano)

A senior Catholic churchman in the Philippines has accused several politicians of undermining democracy by engaging in early vote-buying ahead of national elections in May next year.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen Dagupan said several politicians have begun buying votes in the form of “cash aid.”

“It’s incredible, they have started this early. Some people have already received ‘aid’ from politicians…. This is not a case of early charity. This is a case of early corruption,” the archbishop said in a Facebook post on Nov. 23 without revealing any names.

He said distribution of such money to the public was tantamount to vote-buying.

“Vote buying is the mark of the devil. The vote buyer puts a price on the electorate. Those who buy votes are used by the devil because they put a price tag on the poor,” Archbishop Villegas added.

Usually, vote-buying takes place the day before the election when representatives of candidates distribute envelopes containing cash to families included on their list of “supporters”.

Some voters received as much as 7,000 pesos (US$140) to vote for a particular candidate.

Archbishop Villegas said elections in the Philippines have become the playground of the rich and powerful, while those who are competent do not get a look in.

“The more money, the more chance of winning. Those who are the brightest and the best are usually last while those who are popular and are liars are applauded,” he added.

The prelate lamented how vote-buying affected the kind of leaders Filipinos chose to idolize.

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“Those who are corrupt are the ones being pursued by the public for selfies. Politics has become a family business,” Archbishop Villegas said.

He said vote-buying bred nepotism because politicians only wanted their family members to stay in power to steal people’s money.

“They need to make sure only family members inherit their public office so that their luck in politics remains within their family,” he added.

Archbishop Villegas urged Catholic voters not to be bought.

“Do not accept money, get angry, and tell the authorities. When you do this, you are sending a message that you are not for sale. My dignity is not for sale. Stop that illegal practice,” he said.

“Corruption will not stop if we keep quiet. We must speak out against it. Corruption must be declared wrong. Mercy and compassion must reign over selfishness. We can be great even without money, Archbishop Villegas said quoting Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti.

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