CANDIDATES (from left) Joey G. Venancio for congressman and Eduardo C. Firmalo for governor, with Provincial Board Member Jose M. Madrid who is seeking reelection, hold a press conference in Odiongan, Romblon to urge the poll body to probe alleged vote-buying activities by other candidates.  

CANDIDATES for local positions, including reelectionists, and the lone congressional seat in Romblon have called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to investigate what they called rampantvote buying in the province by incumbent officials aligned with presidential candidate Ferdinand BongbongR. Marcos, Jr.   

Its very alarming. Reports of vote buying has started in several towns of Romblon, as early as the first week of this month,Provincial Board Member Jose M. Madrid, who is seeking reelection under the Aksyon Demokratiko party, is quoted in a press release following a recent press conference held in the town of Odiongan.   

Mr. Madrid said incumbent officials under the party of presidential candidate Bongbong Marcoshave started making a list of voters who will be given cash gifts a day before the May 9 election.  

Its another style of vote buying this time since the reportedly ayuda, is a cash assistance under the governments social amelioration program and not from the provincial government,he said.  

Election Commission George Erwin M. Garcia declined to comment on the issue for now.   

“No comment/s po muna in the meantime,he told BusinessWorld via Viber.  

Jean Encinas-Franco, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines, said Comelec should immediately investigate the issue to preserve the credibility of the 2022 elections and to allay fears that the presidential race is highly favorable to Mr. Marcos. 

She said in a text message that the Comelec should probe the incident thoroughly and prove its independence given that it is now governed by people whose appointment papers were signed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.  

“All the more that it should prove its independence.”  

Mr. Marcos’ spokesman, Victor D. Rodriguez, did not reply to a request for comment via Viber.   

The press briefing was attended by congressional candidate Joey G. Venancio, also running under Aksyon Demokratiko; Liberal Partys Eduardo C. Firmalo, a former governor who is aiming for the same position; and Vice Governor Felix F. Ylagan, who is seeking reelection under Aksyon Demokratiko.   

Mr. Firmalo said penalties against individuals engaged in vote buying, especially candidates themselves, should be strictly imposed. with reports from John Victor D. Ordoñez and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza