Coin toss breaks tie in Bontoc town council race
BONTOC, Mountain Province, Philippines – Two candidates for councilor here tied for the eighth and last place and an election officer suggested they flip a coin to determine the winner.
Are you joking? Stunned poll watchers asked Mary Umaming, municipal election supervisor, after she made the proposal.
People at the crowded municipal hall, where the tabulation took place, burst into laughter when Umaming readied the P5 coin for flipping. This eased the tension among the candidates and their supporters.
“The people were not expecting that tossing a coin was an option to break the tie. The people were laughing and asking me, ‘Are you joking?’ Umaming told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net.
Tossing a coin to break a tie might sound odd for voters but Umaming said this method was included in the Commission on Elections’ guidelines.
Aside from flipping a coin, another option was drawing lots to break the tie, she said.
The two candidates who were vying for the last slot were Brian Bellang, chief of the village of Alab here, and Benjamin Ngeteg, an incumbent municipal councilor of Bontoc.
Bellang, 37, a neophyte politician, chose heads and won.
“At first it was hard to explain the feeling when I won (through coin-tossing) but I was happy that I won,” he said.
Bellang said the exercise was fair for him and his contender.
“We talked about it when the coin-flipping was proposed to us. We both agreed to give way to each other. He is a relative after all. It was a gentleman’s agreement,” he said.
But for residents here, election was a time when tossing money for vote-buying was not a laughing matter.
Fr. Marion Buyagawan, chair of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting-National Movement for Free Elections in the Mt. Province, said vote-buying was so rampant, some residents called the May 14 elections the dirtiest in the province’s history.
“We had no culture of vote-buying before. But because of too much poverty, it was done. In the past, we elected our leaders according to their wisdom and integrity … Modern politics has changed some practices,” Buyagawan lamented.
In the village of Maligcong here, a woman cried when she was forced to take money. “Why are you forcing me to take this money? Are you forcing me to sell my vote,” she was overheard saying.
In the village of Balugan in Sagada town, elders on Tuesday night talked about how to eliminate vote-buying after a teacher allegedly distributed money given by a mayoral candidate.
Stickers with the message “We may be poor but we do not sell/buy votes” were posted at the Bontoc town center.