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The great democracy sale

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Based on anecdotes from all over the land following the results of the 2022 elections, it would seem that this is the year that the supposedly illegal act of vote buying has become normalized in Philippine society.

Normalization was a natural consequence after nobody has done anything significant to stop it after all this time. The Commission on Elections has not gone beyond lip service, the Philippine National Police has never arrested an actual candidate or politico, and the politicians who should have the power and responsibility to do something about it are the biggest repeat offenders because they’ve gotten away with it for decades.

As far as I can tell, the going rate for a ballot these days is apparently somewhere along the range of 1000-3000 pesos, the median being at around 2K. For many of the country’s impoverished voters, this is a good amount of cash, and in combination with the convenient Filipino trait of “utang ng loob”, there is always a very good chance for vote buying to be the simplest and most successful tactic when it comes to winning elections.

All a candidate needs is the funding and the willingness to disregard the law and the spirit of fair play, and if you come to think of it, the toughest part in this equation is the where to get the funds because breaking the law and cheating others is not a problem for most politicos in this country.

When it comes to funding, the budget to buy votes can only come from two sources: ill-gotten wealth acquired by those who have been in power long enough or dubious sponsors of those who have not yet managed to plunder the country’s coffers.  Aside from very few politicos, Filipino or otherwise, being crazy enough to risk personal funds to buy votes in a contest where the highest bidder wins, the technology to crowd source or go fund me a massively illegal activity such as vote buying has not yet been beta tested.

After so many years of vote buying, it is very difficult to understand how Filipinos still have no concept of the term “return on investment” and don’t even think about where the money that was used to buy their vote comes from. Our beloved voters simply pocket the cash and take the attached sample ballots, to cast their votes for the highest bidder without question. As long as they get their quick fix and are able to partake of their small percentage of the nation’s plunder, their votes are for sale.

Despite all the advice to take the money but still vote for the right candidates, there is still absolutely no research or discernment involved when it comes to Pinoy elections. All our voters apparently look at are the contents of the envelopes they are given so they can make their decisions based on the total amount received.

As far as Filipino elections are concerned, there are the winners and then there are those who were somehow outspent in the vote buying department. Of course, there have been suspicions of other more advanced forms of cheating, but without any evidence, even just anecdotal, we can’t really take it seriously. I hope that the people investigating it those forms of cheating do find evidence so countermeasures can be installed because there is already enough traditional cheating hounding our electoral process. We need to protect our elections from even more threats, especially from the inside.

If we have come to terms with the fact that vote buying has become an established part of Filipino elections, it is still possible for any candidate, no matter how capable and qualified, to win without resorting to buying votes at the prevailing rate?

That is the biggest question we have to ask ourselves right now because it gives us an idea of what kind of leaders our country will have from now on. What is the best way to break the vicious cycle of vote buying and plundering so more votes can be bought next time? Do the idealistic and well-meaning non-trapos have to fight fire with fire in order to stand a chance at changing the political landscape? With the Comelec, PNP, entire national and local executive and legislative branches having done absolutely nothing about vote buying, will any government agency ever grow the balls and the teeth to seriously try and put a stop to vote buying?

Is there still something we can do about this or has our government already been sold to the highest bidder?*

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