BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – The election of officers of the Negros Press Club here was marred by allegations of vote buying after two groups led by broadcasters from two competing radio stations vied for nine elective positions in what is reputed to be the oldest press organization in the country.
Accusations also swirled in local media circles here that two businessmen, one a scion of a prominent family currently embroiled in a corporate infighting, and another who owns a media outlet, bankrolled the vote-buying operations.
No one among the reporters who made the claims would like to go on record and gave the information on the condition that they remain anonymous.
None, however, offered proof of their claims of vote buying or to support their accusations linking the two businessmen to the unethical act.
During the Saturday polls, the first held amid the COVID pandemic and without a general assembly, Yves Montecillo, a reporter-anchorman of DYHB-RMN won over Rey Siason of Hapi MUEWS Radio.
Montecillo garnered 69 votes while Siason got 46.
Montecillo is also president of the City Hall Press Corp while Siason is a former NPC president.
Montecillo’s slate, running under the “New Normal” banner dominated the executive committee while Siason’s “Team Powerhouse,” made up of former presidents, won two of four board seats.
Hours after the winning candidates were proclaimed, broadcaster Donard Nojas asked his Facebook account:
“Is it true nagbaklanay boto sa Negros Press Club election kaina tag PHP 1k per voter-member? Mga taga media wala nagaparespeto! Gutom gid??? Amo na nga barat panulokan ka publiko sa media (Is it true that there was vote buying during the Negros Press Club elections at P1,000 per vote? Members the media have no self-respect. That hungry? That is the reason why the public sees the media as cheap)!”
Reporters who voted were sought by DNX for comment but most declined to do so.
“No comment,” was the common reply.
Dolly Yasa, former NPC president, called for an investigation into the claims, saying these are a “slap and insult” to the Club’s integrity.
Yasa, who ran as vice president under Siason but lost to Eljohn Castano of DYQU Radyo Bandera, said she is “not sourgraping” but added “we know we (put up) a good fight and (had) a good chance.”
She added: “without that supposed P1k that was allegedly distributed” they would have won.
“It is too much; treating our colleagues to lunch and helping them with their dues and maybe in some instances giving them fare can be part of camaraderie among us but to give out 1k to influence their choices,” Yasa said.
She also pointed out: “How are we now different to people we criticize and to some extent condemn for vote buying…do we need to resort to that just to win?”
Montecillo and Siason both admitted to DNX they spent for the elections but only for food and drinks.
Montecillo said he spent P24,500 for the pre-election lunch and for the rent of two vans that were used to ferry members who had difficulty in going to and from the NPC office.
Castaño, on the other hand, said he spent for “coffee and lunch.”
Outgoing president Glazyl Masculino told DNX she will meet with incumbent officers to discuss steps that could be taken to prevent vote buying but pointed out claims of membership dues being paid for by candidates are not new.
“We’ve heard of these claims several years ago, not only recently, she added.
Masculino, however, gave the assurance she is willing to have allegations investigated “as long as there is proof” and not just based on allegations.