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ALBAY, Philippines – Catholic Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi has criticized the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for failing to curb widespread vote buying and partisan politics during the October 30 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.
In an open letter read in Catholic churches across Albay on Sunday, November 5, Baylon said the just-held grassroots elections could just be a preview of the 2025 national and local elections.
He said the diocese was informed that likely candidates in the 2025 elections actively meddled and provided funds for vote-buying activities during the village and youth elections, despite the supposedly non-partisan nature of the barangays and SK.
Baylon said that during the preparation phase before the elections, the Comelec appeared resolute in upholding election laws and preventing early campaigning and vote-buying.
He noted that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself promised that the government would enforce laws against vote-buying.
“However, all these pronouncements turned out to be all sound and fury,” Baylon said.
He said that two days before the elections, vote-buying was blatant in many areas.
Baylon said, “Looking at all these, we now believe that the BSKE was a ‘proxy fight’ by protagonists in the 2025 elections…. And all the while we thought, as we were told, that BSKE should be non-partisan.”
Baylon’s open letter, which was supported by members of the clergy in Albay, came even as thousands of newly elected and re-elected barangay officials in Albay took their oath of office before Ako Bicol Representative Elizaldy Co and other officials at the celebration plaza of the Embarcadero de Legazpi.
The oathtaking was witnessed by Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) provincial director Ray Caceres, but local politicians – a governor, town mayors, and a former party-list representative – were all over the place. – Rappler.com