Every three years, in the Philippine political setting, power shifts between the politicians to the people for a period of at least a month. This is the time when the candidates do everything they can to convince the people to vote in their favor. Some candidates even sing and dance in front of a large crowd, shrieking, trying hard to reach a very high note or breaking their ankles to show how the latest dance steps are done, to the jeers and cheers of their constituents.
The unpublished paper of Frederic Charles Schaffer – Clean Elections and the Great Unwashed Vote Buying and Voter Education in the Philippines , clearly shows the attitude of Filipinos when it comes to choosing their leaders. The consequences of the their actions doesn’t matter as long as the temporary gain is present and the action is not even condemn-able for the simple reason that it is prevalent and done by many people. It is even an insult to them if you rebuke the deed as if you don’t have the right to judge them. This is the reason why it is not shameful for some politicians to buy votes. Its trivial, even more exciting than popularity contest, but it is the other way around. Instead of them soliciting for money, they are the ones giving, with the pretense that they are not buying something but only sharing what they have, not only in the form of money but also groceries, liquor, farm machinery, fertilizers, and yes, even candies.
A nagging question that confronts every Filipino is why would a candidate spend so much to win the elections? Is it honor? Is it the will to serve? Or is it just pure ego? Some even proudly say – to continue the legacy of their forefathers in public service. Too good to be true, Right? The answer lies to the candidate himself but ask every voter why and they will give the aching truth.
Filipinos are very intelligent but this premise contradicts the current situation in the country today and the past two decades. They know that these people are corrupt but they let them win the elections by casting their votes in their favor. Is it because they have no choice? They made a mistake because they were deceived? Yes, maybe, but why do most of these politicians win for the second term? Third term and sometimes make a comeback? These practices leave other few good men in politics to join the caravan. They reason out that they would lose if they will not buy votes and it doesn’t matter if serving the public is too expensive. The end does not justify the means, and it doesn’t change the fact that serving the people with a dirty conscience is appalling.
I overheard once in a victory party that in a single local election, within a small municipality of about 12,000 voters, a candidate for mayor-ship would spend at least 30 million pesos (roughly less than 700,000 dollars) in order to win. He has to spend that much to serve in a 3rd Class Municipality. A mayor will be paid a fair amount of salary but would be a miniscule amount compared to the amount of money lost and the risks just to win a seat. Did that money go to paid political advertisement? Where will it go? Absurd, yes but true. Is this foolishness? Maybe. High stake gambling on their part? Definitely not, a man with the right mind and calculation don’t use that amount of money without certainty.
The point is that, to be clear, these politicians are not accused of corruption while serving their term not only because of the benefit of the doubt, but on the lack of courage of people to point fingers and evidence. And based on the political history of the country, only a few are convicted of this crime.
They should be accused of corruption and dishonesty before the elections, but it should be noted that they are not the only ones committing corruption, but also the voters who benefit from these politicians’ need to win. It is probable that a law is not made to incarcerate voters who sell their votes because it would take thousands of lawyers, courts and jails to process them.
The sad truth is that, high regard and respect is given to these people who have become government officials by winning the elections through dishonesty. They are welcomed to gatherings and events like they are monarchs, and have to wait for them before starting it. They are honored on long speeches and flattered when introduced. They are considered VVVIPs (Very, very, very important persons) that sometimes organizers of a certain meeting raise funds for the lavish accommodations of these men because their position and stature requires them to do so.
Is this now how honor and respect defined in the Filipino culture? Is there no need to change this norm because it is now becoming acceptable to all of us?
“Kasi wala na rin tayong magagawa dahil andiyan na yan at nakasanayan na?”