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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bizarre Tactics in Philippines Election

MANILA, Philippines -- Lured by ladies' underwear, herring, free insurance and other gifts, millions of voters cast ballots Monday in a midterm election the opposition hopes will strengthen efforts to impeach President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

In Tondo, one of Manila's poorest districts, hundreds of people streamed into a busy polling station, fanning themselves with sample ballots handed out by dozens of campaign workers on the street. Undaunted by endemic corruption, they came out to vote in the hope that this time things might be different.

"Sometimes no matter who wins, the same things happen. They all get accused of corruption," said Winnie Cayudin, 42. "What is most important is that when they win, they must accomplish a lot."

Across town, in the gated community of Forbes Park, most of the early-morning voters were domestic workers for the wealthy. "Filipinos never give up," said cook Joss Gupilan, 24. "There's always hope."

Some polls suggest that opponents of Arroyo, who won a six-year term in 2004, will have a strong showing after campaigning to clean up Philippine politics in an alliance called the Genuine Opposition.

Complaints of corruption, vote rigging and the killing of candidates and their supporters, rather than policy debates, have dominated the election campaign. The Supreme Court has designated 111 special courts to handle the expected flood of fraud charges.

It is illegal under Philippine election law for political candidates to promise or give cash, materials or favors in exchange for votes. Yet alleged vote-buying is as common to campaigns here as shaking hands and kissing babies.

Opponents of Ernesto Aspillaga, who is seeking re-election to city council in Manila's financial district, say he broke the rules by handing out thousands of panties to female voters in the barrio of West Rembo. The women could choose from dozens of colors, but each pair had the candidate's name across the bottom.

Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao, a former World Boxing Council super-featherweight champion, gave free insurance policies to supporters of his People's Champ Movement in his bid for a congressional seat.

The National Election Commission said it would investigate House of Representatives Speaker Jose de Venecia, the fourth-highest official in the Philippines, after a television report showed him handing out some of the 2.7 million insurance policy cards distributed to his party's supporters. The policies pay almost $2,000 in the event of accidental disability or death, and almost $200 for funeral expenses.

"There is nothing illegal, much less an act of vote-buying, in the distribution of the cards because they are given to party members who are already captive voters," the lawyer for De Venecia's party said in a letter to the commission.

In a favorite campaign tactic, some candidates appealed to voters' stomachs with gift certificates redeemable for 10 fresh herring, roast beef or anything worth a little less than $2 at McDonald's.

Politics is a notoriously dirty and violent business in the Philippines, where campaigning for public office is often a life-threatening proposition. At least 116 Filipinos have been killed in election-related violence, including numerous candidates.

A total of 46,133 candidates were running for 17,889 posts, from seats on local councils to the nation's House of Representatives and Senate, in Monday's elections.