Command, money, or conscience vote? | Inquirer Opinion
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Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Command, money, or conscience vote?

A week from now, Filipino voters will once again determine who will become their next set of leaders, legislators, and local government executives. As we approach this critical time in our political history, many of us go through interminable theorizing about how in general Filipino voters will vote.

Many political observers agree that the Filipino voting behavior, especially in the choices of candidates to elect, is largely driven by strong family relations, extended kinships, both based on blood and marital ties. But some arguments have also considered factors beyond family-based ties (blood and marriage), looking at politics and the elections as the outcomes of long and beneficial patron-client relationships that feed on the benevolence of patrons and the subservience of their clients or wards. We have seen this rent-seeking behavior manifested at the national level, like the strong bond that Sen. Bong Go has with President Duterte. Go’s acquiescence to the “command” of his beloved patron has been described as something akin to that between the late Gen. Fabian Ver and Ferdinand Marcos Sr. Remember the (sick) joke circulated at the height of Marcos’ martial law, with Marcos Sr. allegedly commanding Ver to jump from a building, and the general responding subserviently, “from which floor, Sir?”

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Such kind of rent-seeking behavior and relationships are replicated at the local level, down to the barangay, where political affiliations are highly marked by the barangay chairpersons’ penchant for surrounding themselves with trusted and acquiescent individuals. The barangay is a microcosm of this kind of patron-client relationship; it is also at the barangay level where the command vote holds sway, as almost everyone is related to everybody else.

Moneyed candidates take advantage of the impoverished status of many voters in the countryside and in the urban blighted areas by dispensing money that gives poor recipients an exhilarating experience of receiving a cash windfall. In return, this kind of voters also takes advantage of the election season as a way of “making it even” with rich candidates— waiting for the one who gives them the highest amount just before they actually vote.

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But there is also a growing number of voters, in Maguindanao and in other parts of the Bangsamoro and beyond, who are starting to see an alternative vision of their own development in the next six years and beyond. These groups want to show they can transcend oppressive patron-client relationships they have known all their lives as voters. For them, there are bigger and more important issues that require them to think of the greater good than just their and their families’ narrow and selfish pecuniary interests.

For Bangsamoro “conscience” voters, they will choose candidates who can ensure that the gains of the long and arduous peace process they have trekked for more than two decades will be sustained. This is what their conscience tells them, even if this means going against the grain of the popular command or money-driven votes.

We are also seeing this happen among the Araneta and Ledesma clans who have chosen not to vote for Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and his UniTeam slate. Marcos Jr.’s wife, Louise “Liza” Araneta, is a member of both clans.

Members of the two clans issued a statement last April 30 that they “stand up and speak up for those who are voiceless against tyranny, kleptocracy, rotten political dynasties, impunity, corruption, plunder, extrajudicial killings, and selfish interests…” For these two clans, the decision to put aside the family command vote in favor of a conscience vote is something they have to uphold as their ancestors have done since the late 1700s. They cited the family philosophy of “non sibi sed cunctis” (not for oneself but for all), to serve the people first above all.

Think of these as you go to the polls next Monday.

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