MANILA, Philippines – Hours before the national elections, at least 33 civilians, mostly children, evacuated their homes in Brgy. Cautod, Santa Margarita in Samar after being threatened by unidentified armed men for vote-buying.
A resident in the area, who refused to be named due to security reasons, took to Facebook on Monday, May 8 to ask for help from the authorities.
In a phone interview with Rappler, the resident said that at least 5 armed men went to their area at 11 in the morning, looking for certain people. By 1 pm, she claimed that she heard gunshots and people shouting.
While there were members of the army at the place, she said they would leave from time to time.
“Umaalis din kaagad yung mga police, yung mga army na nagbabantay sa amin. Tapos po babalik nanaman po sila,” she said. (The police would leave immediately, even the army looking after us. But they also went back from time to time.)
By 5pm, she said they saw armed men in the area again.
“Around 5pm umalis na po kami ng mommy ko sa bahay namin kasi po yung mommy ko po may mga tao na mga botante. Siyempre po natatakot kami kasi po daan ng daan sa amin yung mga nakamotor na wala po silang plaka. Tapos po naka-black jacket po sila, meron po silang cap, tapos may shades. May mga nakakita po talaga na may mga baril sila,” she explained.
(Around 5pm, me and my mommy left our house because she has staff who are also voters. Of course we were afraid because the armed men, who were on a motorcycle with no license plate kept on passing by our house. They were wearing black jackets, caps and shades. Others even saw that they have guns)
Accept the money
The resident claims that the armed men were sent by Emil Zosa, who is running for governor in Samar and Gemma Zosa, who is running for mayor in Santa Margarita, Samar. Both are running under the Liberal Party.
According to the resident, the armed men were looking for certain people who allegedly accepted bribes from the Nacionalista Party.
“Kasi po tumanggap po sila, kung baga iboboto po nila yung isang candidate from another party tapos tumanggap po sila yung sa vote buying… Ang gusto po nila [armed men] ibalik po nila yung pera from the other party at tanggapin po nila yung sa Liberal [party] na inooffer po nila na pera,” she explained.
(They accepted the bribe from another party. What the armed men want is for them to return the money from the other party and accept the money the Liberal Party is offering.)
“Sure po ako sa kabila po sila kasi ang tumatakbo po dito sa Samar dalawa lang po, from Nacionalista Party tapos Liberal Party. ‘Yung independent po na tumakbo, friend po namin yon at impossible po na siya yung may gawa nun.” (I am sure that they are from the other party because there are only two parties in Samar, the Nacionalista Party and the Liberal Party. The independent candidate is our friend, so I am sure, he’s innocent.)
Fearing for their lives, the resident has also message Rappler several times to ask for help.
She and her neighbors are now in the custody of Erdie Delos Santos, who is also running for Mayor under the Nacionalista Party.
By 1am of Monday, May 9, the resident said the armed men are outside the house, firing laser pointers and throwing rocks.
“‘Yung van po nila Zosa nandito sa harapan [ng bahay]. Nakikita namin nililaser kami at binabato,” the resident said. (Zosa’s van is in front of the house. They’re firing laser pointers and throwing rocks at us.)
Samar is listed as one of the country’s election hot spots, according to the Philippine National Police, with the governor seeking help from the Department of Interior and Local government to help stop election-related violence. (READ: As election violence in Samar escalates, governor seeks DILG help)
In a Commission on Human Rights report, Samar is the 5th province with the highest number of reports on election-related violence. –Rappler.com
Know of election-related wrongdoing? Use the #PHVoteWatch map to report vote buying and vote selling, campaign finance anomalies, election-related violence, campaign violations, technical glitches, and other problems observed among communities.