Tension builds as vote counting drags on in Dapitan City

DAPITAN CITY, Philippines (Updated) – Tension continued to build up in Dapitan City on Friday, May 17, as vote counting dragged on to its 5th day due to malfunctioning vote counting machines (VCM).

No winners have been proclaimed as transmissions of results stalled at 71.95% as of this writing. Supporters of former Dipolog City mayor Evelyn Uy, who ran against incumbent Dapitan Mayor Rosalina G. Jalosjos, have gathered at the Dapitan Government Center where the canvassing is held.

Uy was suspicious of the delay. "Ag sugod na sa pag-ihap sa mga boto, namatikdan gyud nga ang kasagarang aberiya sa mga VCMs nahitabo gyud sa Distrito Unomaong distritoha nga giluok sa mga kamot sa among kontra sa politika (When counting of votes started, we observed that the malfunctioning of VCMs happened in District 1. This is the district that is being strangled by [the Jalosjoses])," Uy said in a statement on Thursday. 

At least 24 precincts have yet to transmit results. The canvassing delay in Dapitan City effectively stalled the proclamation of winners in the province, too.

Waiting for SD cards

Zamboanga del Norte's 1st District, where Dapitan is located, is a known bailiwick of the Jalosjos political dynasty. 

Mayor Jalosjos dismissed Uy's suspicions. She said it was absurd to insinuate that the Jalosjoses could control the VCMs and cause the machines to malfunction. 

“We have the same number of watchers. We have the same number of lawyers attending to the counting and canvassing. Why did they not complain to the Commission on Elections (Comelec)? Does it mean that Belen Uy and her supporters don’t trust their lawyers and watchers?,” Mayor Jalosjos said in an interview.

Jalosjos herself complained about the malfunctioning machines, noting that "almost half of the VCMs have glitches" in Dapitan City alone. 

Out of the 82 machines deployed to Dapitan City, 38 malfunctioned due to problematic SD cards. On May 15, Comelec officials and lawyers from both political camps had to go to Zamboanga  City to get new SD cards but they were only able to get 14. The rest are expected to arrive Friday afternoon yet. 

Political dynasties

Jalosjos was leading Uy in the mayoral race by over 4,000 votes, based on the tally so far.  There are 57,434 registered voters in the city.

It's the first time a member of the Uy political clan is attempting to dislodge the Jalosjoses from Dapitan City. 

Zamboanga Del Norte has 3 districts that are controlled by 3 separate political clans. The Jalojoses control the 1st District where Dapitan City is located. The Uys control the 2nd District where Dipolog City is located. The family of incumbent Representative Isagani Amatong, an ally of the Uys, controls the 3rd district. 

In the gubernatorial race, Evelyn's husband Roberto Uy was leading Seth Frederick Jalosjos by over 6,000 votes based on results from 85.26% of polling precincts.

Vote buying

Reports of massive vote buying persisted in Dapitan City. According to a retired police, candidates bought votes for as much as P30,000. The police said he learned this from a cousin, a caretaker of a fishpond owned by a rich family in barangay Sulangon.

“She is a leader of a politician. She took the money, which is supposed to be for 6 voters. It was for her, for her 4 children who are working in other places, and her husband who cannot vote because he is bedridden,” the police said.

On the day after election, the police said his cousin's family gave him prawns and crabs.

In barangay Taguilon, a political leader is said to have gone into hiding because he didn't distribute among voters their allocated P5,000 before the elections. The talk on the streets is the political leader was instead seen at a wake gambling the money away on the locally popular card game bagrak. He reportedly lost all the money. 

Reports of massive vote buying swirled around the province 3 days before the elections. Voters were supposedly given coupons which were used to redeem certain amounts of cash from "buying stations" such as department stores, hotels, and even banks.

Provincial police chief Michae Macapal said the they did not see any case of vote buying, however. 

“Maybe they were hiding,” Macapagal said. – with reports from Maria Victoria Tenido Te/Rappler.com