"This is how Filipinos vote."
The Philippine Constitution describes a government “of the people, for the people and by the people.”
Filipino politicians, however, have given this noble intent a twist by changing the last phrase to “buy the people.”
Vote-buying has been the norm since the country first held elections. In Muntinlupa City, 17 persons suspected of vote buying were arrested by the police and their case turned over to the Commission on Elections for the filing of appropriate charges. Police recovered P70,000 used by the suspects in vote-buying.
In Isabela, former senator and Agrarian Reform Secretary Heherson Alvarez withdrew his candidacy because he said he can no longer stomach the open and rampant vote-buying going on in the province. I know Sonny Alvarez personally, going back to his Constitutional Convention delegate days, and during his exile in New York where I was the press attaché at the Philippine Consulate.
It’s regrettable Sonny had to pull out as congressional candidate because he knows he does not stand a chance against those who havemoney to but people’s vote. Sonny Alvarez’s case is not an isolated one. There are many cases similar to Sonny’s where deserving candidates get dismayed and pull out of the race.
Vote buying is so rampant that the Church (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines) came out to issue a statement urging the citizenry not to sell their vote as did the Comelec amid several reports of the malpractice in many parts of the country.
The latest Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia poll surveys listed the moneyed candidates in the top rung of their polls. To be fair, some need not buy votes as their track record in the Senate speak for itself while others with high rankings are there because of their popularity. Take the case of television and movie personality Lito Lapid. His rebel leader role in the long-running ad popular TV series “Ang Probinsyano” makes him a sure winner to return to the Senate where his work record is far from satisfactory. But that’s how Filipinos vote; they go for the popular and scripted heroes in their preference for candidates.
Qualified presidential candidate Gilberto Teodoro never made it while the likes of Erap Estrada was favored president and later mayor of Manila. The masa and us ultimately get the officials we don’t deserve. And that’s as kindly as I can say it.
The Comelec should mete out stiffer penalty for those who buy votes and equally to those who sell their right of suffrage. There is less vote -buying in India and Indonesia, two countries with larger population than the Philippines with large scale vote buying which has become the norm. Are we that innately corrupt that vote-buying has been institutionalized in our electoral process?
As the most affected sector of Philippine society, don’t expect our politicians to pass legislate measures that will curbvote-buying. That’s like asking them to ban political dynasties in any proposed amendment to the Constitution. To do so would be killing the goose that lays the golden egg that keeps politicians in perpetual power.
The government too has declared a war on vote buying. But we can blame the people for being skeptical about he government’s declaration. It is government with the money and it wants to control both the House and Senate short proclaiming martial law throughout the entire country. So far, martial law is imposed only in Mindanao but that has not deterred lawless elements from continuing with attacks on government troops and communities in the rural areas.
As it is, the way to go is stiffer penalty on vote buying to preserve the sanctity of the ballot.