No less than President Rodrigo Duterte says that vote buying has been an integral part of Philippine elections, and that it takes on many forms.
After casting his vote Monday, Mr. Duterte dismissed concerns over rampant vote buying, saying there was nobody who did not resort to buying votes, anyway. In fact, he said, it would be difficult to say that one is buying votes when he or she simply gives money to voters so they can go to precincts and buy some food.
This trend will persist, he said, so long as the Philippines remains a poor country.
Days earlier, he also joked that people should not believe the Commission on Elections, the body tasked with cracking down on vote buying. The President said people should take the money not for the vote but to pay for their fare and meals.
But there are many reasons people sell their votes to candidates. Mr. Duterte is right—need is a great motivator. The poor could use the additional cash to get by.
They could also believe that this is the only way they can get something for themselves from their politicians. They could perceive that their leaders will dip their hands into public funds, anyway, so why not take what they can?
Others may believe their vote is too insignificant to matter. Many, tragically, simply do not know any better.
The prevalence of a practice is not enough reason to accept it as a given. Selling votes for whatever reason erodes the integrity and sanctity of each individual’s vote. The argument that a single vote is insignificant is patently false.
Of course, the rule against vote buyers and peddlers can also be misused for political gain. But precisely because lines are easily blurred, voters must more than ever acknowledge that their choice should be determined solely by their good judgment on a candidate’s fitness for office—nothing else.
Assuming voters do not know better, it is up to their public leaders—ideally, that is—to educate them on protecting the sanctity of their ballot. Unfortunately, it is these candidates themselves who perpetuate the practice.
The President is being pragmatic when he states this sorry fact about our elections. We wonder how many more polls we must go through before integrity—and not vote buying—becomes integral to our elections.