Economic vs political rights: Why voters sell their votes
Why do ordinary voters sell their votes to the highest bidder? What Vice President Leni Robredo said to answer this question was not new. Taking the money but voting according to one’s conscience even echoes the advice of prelates. However, based on a study that looked at vote-selling in the Philippines, columnist Segundo Eclar Romero pointed out that such advice may be counterproductive (“Vote-selling,” 10/29/2021).
The late human rights lawyer Eugene A. Tan once argued that political rights (such as the right to vote, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly) are easily lost when people are deprived of their economic rights. Because ordinary voters do not enjoy their fundamental economic rights to food, sanitary water, shelter, and just wages, they are understandably forced to sell their votes to the highest bidder. Thus, it would be safe to say that their voting behavior is more the result of their economic deprivation than their moral character or disposition. Their economic situation makes them vulnerable to politicians who profess their love for the poor and promise them the moon and the stars during election season.
In turn, those who enjoy their economic rights quickly obtain political power. What is disgraceful is that those who have gained political power cannot be expected to effect meaningful change to empower the poor economically. Doing so would be tantamount to political suicide, because that would mean they may no longer buy votes, and the ordinary voters may no longer sell their votes to them.
The solution does not seem to lie in enacting more laws to deter vote-buying or vote-selling. The ordinary voters must organize themselves to gain political power and thus, as a matter of right and justice, vote as one for the sadly few good men and women who will meaningfully protect and promote their economic and political rights.
Noel Asiones, [email protected]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.