Vote-buying in last polls raised inflation rate | Inquirer Opinion
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Vote-buying in last polls raised inflation rate

When the newly elected senators assume office on June 30, there will be six women senators—Grace Poe, Loren Legarda, Nancy Binay and Cynthia Villar, plus the two holdovers, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Pia Cayetano. At least three new opposition senators—Binay, JV Ejercito and Gringo Honasan—will be added to the opposition ranks in the Senate. But although nine candidates of Team PNoy won in the Senate race, not all are members of the Liberal Party (LP). They come from several parties—the Nacionalista Party (NP), Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (PDP-Laban) and, of course, the LP. Chiz Escudero considers himself an independent. Thus the LP will not have full control of the Senate.

It is said that the 24 senators are 24 independent minds—with the exception, perhaps, of the three newly elected United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) senators—Binay, Ejercito and Honasan—who are expected to toe the UNA line, at least in the beginning.

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Three of the newly elected senators are neophytes at lawmaking—Poe, Binay and Bam Aquino. The nine others are either reelectionists or come from the House of Representatives.

In the local elections, many of PNoy’s anointed candidates lost, including those for whom he personally campaigned, like Hernani Braganza who lost by a landslide to reelectionist Gov. Amado Espino of Pangasinan. Even in his own home province of Tarlac Aquino’s candidate lost.  Of the 46 congressmen from north and central Luzon, only 17 are LP members. And of the 22 north and central Luzon governors, only five are LP.

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Even so, the President may have enough clout in the House.  He holds the key to the release of the pork barrel fund. Congressmen who cooperate with Malacañang get their pork promptly; those who don’t, don’t get any. And most congressmen live only for the pork. In fact, many of them run for Congress only for the pork.

Expect a mad scramble for pork in the incoming Congress. With the massive vote-buying in the last elections, with some candidates paying thousands of pesos for each vote, the first priority of many winners would be how to recoup their expenses. And how else would they be able to do that other than by stealing from government coffers. Their salaries for the whole term would be far short of the hundreds of millions of pesos they spent during the campaign. And the easiest to steal from is the pork barrel.

That’s why Aquino, whose promise is to stop corruption in government, does not want to abolish the pork barrel system, which is the main root of corruption.  He can easily do that by not having any appropriation for the Priority Development Assistance Fund— which is the polite term for the pork barrel—in the annual budget proposal. Congress can only reduce, but not add, to the budget submitted by Malacañang.

But every President does not want to stop the pork barrel system because it is their way of bribing the lawmakers. It is the carrot and stick that keep legislators in line.

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The Commission of Elections should devise a foolproof way to prevent vote-buying. The degree of vote-buying in the just ended elections was too much. The inflation rate probably went up because of it. Many voters went to the polling centers early but not to vote. They hung around in the polling center waiting for somebody to bid for their votes. You could easily spot them. They stayed there for hours waiting, until they had their fill. Some accepted money from rival candidates. Some candidates bought the votes of whole families. Some families known to be followers of certain candidates were bought just not to vote at all. It is easier to monitor them that way. You can never be sure whom they voted for in the polling booths even if they had accepted your money.

Vote-buying corrupts the vote-buyer (politician), the vote-seller (voter) and the politician’s worker who does the actual vote-buying. The money ban was Comelec’s way to prevent it. Without cash on hand, politicians would not be able to buy votes. But the bankers, the businessmen and the Supreme Court did not see it that way. The fact is, some businessmen donated campaign funds to politicians as a sort of lobby. In case their business interests would be jeopardized by a bill in Congress, they can expect the lawmakers to whom they have been generous to protect them.

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But even if the Comelec’s weapon was not shot down by the high court, Comelec could have used it only once. In the next elections, politicians would withdraw cash from the banks well ahead of the money ban. The Comelec should think of something more foolproof.

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The delay in the canvassing of votes was really scary and suspicious. Delayed counting gives losing candidates more time and opportunity for “dagdag-bawas.” Sure, the elections are now automated and it is difficult to add and subtract votes the old way. Still, many paranoids got worried, fearing that IT technicians could manipulate the voting machines to alter the vote count. Expect many poll protests alleging that the PCOS machines have been manipulated.

One example is the contest between actor Aga Muhlach and reelectionist Rep. Wimpy Fuentebella for the seat of the fourth congressional district of Camarines Sur. Aga was leading in the counting when the canvassing was suspended, purportedly because of glitches in the voting machines. When the canvassing was resumed, Wimpy spurted ahead and won by a slim margin, just enough to make him win.

Angered and suspicious of the long wait, supporters of Aga stormed the municipal hall of Tigaon, Camarines Sur. Soon after, the board of canvassers proclaimed Fuentebella as the winner. Naturally, Aga will file an election protest.

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TAGS: “Team PNoy”, 2013 Elections, Aga Muhlach, Comelec, Liberal Party, nation, news, poll fraud, UNA, vote buying
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