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Our best bet: solid vote against vote-buying

/ 05:03 AM November 24, 2019

Why can’t the Philippines extricate itself from the plight that forces many of its citizens to swallow indignities as domestics abroad, to endure backbreaking labor in building edifices that does not pay them enough to escape a life in shanties, to sell their bodies and/or their principles to buy a bit of insurance against unemployment, to break laws protecting pedestrians and motorists to eke out a living as street vendors, to steal and commit other serious crimes to stave off hunger or deal with medical emergencies—and to exhibit indifference to the blatant abuses of those in power?

The answer crawled into my consciousness after the midterm elections, when moneyed politicians once more shamelessly demonstrated the power of a perennial and most lethal weapon: vote-buying. If we can’t find or invent a more potent weapon to counter it, I don’t think we can ever slay the monsters that plague us.

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Such as:

Corruption. Even if elected government officials are guilty beyond reasonable doubt of stealing public funds, their reelection should be expected if they have amassed enough wealth to buy enough votes. Their top priority is to recover their campaign expenses and accumulate more wealth to buy votes and favorable decisions from the courts.

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Soaring prices of commodities. Elected leaders are not ardently adopting meaningful measures, showing that they are more afraid of losing the campaign contributions of big business than drawing the anger of their constituents. They are convinced that there will, after all, be a sufficient number of votes that can be bought with cash or through ads and fake news.

Worsening peace and order. How can the fight against crime be won if serving as protector of crime syndicates guarantees a reliable flow of funds to buy votes? There will always be drug dealers protected by “ninja cops” that are in turn protected by crooked government officials protected by campaign funds generated by criminal activities.

Everyone seems to be aware of the situation. Yet as every election approaches, a large number of Filipinos still express hope that honest candidates will win, only to be disappointed because those built to genuinely represent the people are extremely unlikely to make it. The voter’s choice is always sabotaged by explosions of purchased votes.

Our best bet—in fact our only hope—is a solid vote against vote-buying.

In the midterm elections, how many came out victorious among the candidates who had secured the endorsement of the leaders of groups claiming that they could successfully produce bloc voting? If we can accurately count those votes and confirm that they had been game-changers, will we allow those leaders to essentially dictate again the results of the next elections, with help from politicians determined to keep their political dynasties by engaging also in buying the individual votes of citizens helpless against the seduction of food to nurture them for a few days?

The endorsement of the People’s Choice Movement failed to counterbalance the impact of votes apparently sold in the last elections, perhaps because the leadership of the Church would not unequivocally bless the strengthening of the Catholic vote. It appears now that the most effective way to achieve a fair election is this: Form an organization that will quietly but actively recruit a sufficient number of voters, who will pledge a solid vote for candidates selected by its members, not by its leaders. The members will meet a few days before the elections to come up with a list of candidates to be supported. Needless to say, the list will not include those assessed to have been buying votes or who are endorsed by leaders of groups demonstrating selfish bloc voting.

Thus, candidates will no longer feel the need, or will be afraid, to buy votes or woo the endorsement of those leaders.

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The presidential election is fast approaching. We need to make a pitch that we can begin to address our society’s ills or to get rid of officials unworthy of their posts short of resorting to acts of violence. We must start persuading people to make small but effective contributions to slaying stagnation, such as making a written pledge that they will cast a solid vote to defeat vote-buying.

Let us show that we care enough for our nation and want truly democratic elections.

Manuel R. Olimpo ([email protected]) wrote stories in Tagalog for Liwayway (in the Philippines) and articles in English for Philippine News (in the United States) before working full-time translating releases of public services and election materials (mostly proposed laws) into Tagalog, as required by US federal law, to be mailed to Filipino-American voters. He continues to translate and develop translators for US projects as a Philippine resident, and “never stops trying to be a Tagalog poet.”

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TAGS: corruption, People's Choice Movement, politics, vote buying
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