Philippine Daily Inquirer

In Cebu, money flowed to LP allies but execs deny it happened

- By Doris C. Bongcac and Victor Silva

CEBU CITY—The Liberal Party (LP) is apparently leaving no stone unturned to ensure the victory of its standard bearer Mar Roxas and running mate Rep. Leni Robredo in vote-rich Cebu.

Close to 1,000 LP allies and candidates, composed mainly of barangay leaders in Cebu city and province, gathered at a restaurant here on Friday for a “vote-assessment” meeting.

Before the gathering ended, barangay captains were called to a separate function room and asked how many votes they could commit for Roxas and Robredo.

Each was then given P5,000 in “operationa­l funds.”

“But the money was not really intended for the barangay officials to share. It’s for their operationa­l funds,” said a source, a village councilor who was in the gathering that started at 10 a.m. and ended at 1 p.m.

Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad and LP Cebu candidates led by Gov. Hilario Davide III were in the LP gather- ing, which was the second vote-assessment activity organized by LP in Cebu.

When reached for comment, both Abad and Davide denied there was distributi­on of “operationa­l funds” during the gathering.

“I am not aware of that,” said Abad in a text message.

“I was invited to speak about the achievemen­ts of this administra­tion, why it was important for them to be continued and why Sec Roxas and Cong Robredo were the most trustworth­y, competent and experience­d candidates to continue the ‘daang matuwid,’” Abad said.

Davide said the event was merely a gathering of supporters of Roxas and Robredo. “It’s not true that there was a distributi­on (of funds),” he said.

Davide said the gathering, held at the White Gold House Restaurant along Gen. Maxilom Avenue in Cebu City, was the second phase of a vote-share assessment, which the LP kicked off before the start of the local campaign period on March 25.

But those in the gathering were each given a piece of paper where they were asked to declare how many votes they could deliver for Roxas and Robredo.

The form contained blank spaces for informatio­n about the number of registered voters in 2016, number of voters who voted in 2013, estimated number of voters in 2016, target votes and estimated number of votes they could deliver for Roxas and Robredo.

The source said Abad told the group to give an “honest assessment” so they would know the number of votes they could gather for the LP candidates.

Before the gathering ended, barangay officials were called by district and directed to pro- ceed to the restaurant’s function rooms on the second floor.

Abad, Davide and other LP candidates remained in the third floor hall.

The source said inside the function rooms were tables manned by Cebuano- and Tagalog-speaking men and women.

Barangay captains were then asked to step forward and submit the forms they had filled out.

The barangay captains were then handed small brown envelops containing P5,000 cash and were made to sign attendance sheets.

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