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On Election Day, all of us electorates will steer the destiny of our towns, cities, and our country as we choose leaders who will govern the helm of governance for the next three years.
But what do we expect on May 13th?
Purok and barangay leaders mobilizing their followers, crowded polling places, queuing voters in some disorganized polling precincts, and the brazen election-related violations committed by unashamed cohorts of some politicos.
What’s new in 2019 election is the activation of Kontra Bigay task force to prosecute those buying and selling votes.
Vote-buying has been rampant in many parts of the country even in the past elections.
The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) defines vote-buying as “the act of any person who gives, offers or promises money or anything of value, directly or indirectly, in order to induce anyone or the public to vote for or against any candidate.”
Vote-buying has many faces and appearances. Some candidates deliver truckloads of sand and gravel, donate farm tools, bring lechon and boxes of drinks during fiesta and all sorts of “help” to influence the voters.
A few hours before election, purok leaders and barangay officials will again knock the doors of their constituents, give envelopes containing money and sample ballots.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) this time came up with a standard complaint form for the filing of criminal charges against suspected vote buyers, alarmed by extent of vote-buying that necessitates action to control it this time.
DILG assured that this will be a serious legal battle against vote buyers, unlike before. Both vote-buying and vote-selling are criminal offenses. Those who will be found guilty face imprisonment, lose their right to suffrage and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
Despite clear policies are being enacted prohibiting direct or indirect solicitation of votes in exchange of monetary or non-monetary favors, it is still widely violated by candidates, and despite the fact that the practice is public knowledge, nobody dared to report it, or COMELEC lift a finger to enforce the law.
The COMELEC this time, similar to many elections years ago, urged the public to report occurrence of vote buying. The public expect them to be stricter and inflexible this time to go after those election offenders.
The extent of vote-buying escalated over the years. Then, these questions lurk in our minds, how much are they spending for their campaign and during Election Day vote- buying? Where are they getting the money? Would these sources of campaign donations pose any conflict of interest when the candidates get elected?
The way a candidate carries out an election campaign is usually an exact barometer of the quality of service he or she will render when elected into office. The campaign supporters and financing can indicate a candidate’s vulnerability to sweetheart deals and corruption.
The worst candidate is the one who resorts to armed violence for greedy political ends. Election violence definitely obstructs the people’s will and deteriorates democracy. Violence need not be a permanent feature in elections in our country.
But we are hopeful that poverty and non-education—two major reasons for our political immaturity and the pervasiveness of electoral cheating—would be addressed by a few of the “clean politicians” who desire is really to serve and to help, or at least most of their heart and mind are up to serving or helping people than for personal gains.
We need to be somehow well-off and we need to be well-educated to stave off the offers of money and favors in exchange of our votes. We need to be moneyed enough so that we cannot be tempted by P500, P1000 or P2000 and suffer for years and years. We need to be educated so that we are empowered and we can muscle up our conscience to be strong to resist the lure of power, money or favor.