Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Election Vote-buying, Philippines style


To lump together any transfer of money from candidate/politician and/or his leaders/henchmen to voters as collectively and simply vote-buying I believe misses some finer points that may be unique to politics, Philippines style.  Yes, Philippines style, especially taking into account culture and the pervasiveness of poverty.

Consider the following wrinkles, or nuances, or refinements, or however one may call it, uniquely common in maybe many underdeveloped countries exercising democratic rule.

Money changes hands and given to a candidate/politician’s committed voters/supporters whether for services rendered or simply because it is election time and everyone expects money to be dispersed.  Would that technically be called vote-buying?  And how does one buy something it already owns? For many the services to be rendered would be that as poll watchers, errand boys, or other menial jobs.  And the issue is not whether or not these are redundant or unnecessary jobs. Or whether we can even truly call these real jobs.  But these are paid employment created during election time. In many instances, money transfers hands after the election and counting has been completed.

The conventional wisdom around town and elsewhere is that because of extreme and pervasive poverty, a good sure-fire enticement to vote is financial.  Thus it is not uncommon for voters to receive money not just from one candidate but usually from two or more.  In our logical mind, the differences in the amounts given would determine where the votes would go.  But this is not necessarily the case.  We have often heard political purists say that voters especially those in penury ought to accept the money and vote with their conscience.   And this may be true in many cases.  Of course, also true is the scheme where opposite parties will pay committed supporters of other parties, for them to stay away from voting. Thus, paying for non-votes clearly equals vote-buying.  Ironic?

The proof of this pudding?  Consider the very high voter turnout even during barangay elections. Small barangays in the last election registered as high as 81% turnout.   What galvanizes a citizenry already carrying the heavy onus of privation to come together and attend to a cumbersome exercise?   Money.

High elective officials may also choose to take the role of patrons for lower-level candidates and dispense money not directly tied to any particular vote, but simply as assistance or goodwill money expressly intended for the recipients either for their own particular campaigns, or different advocacies, or other commendable causes, etc.  The politician himself may not even be in any ballot. Again, would this be technically characterized as vote-buying?

The greater moral thorn of course is where the big money is coming from and/or how the generous dispensers of largesse expect to recover the big expenditure?  Every thinking man has the answer. 

But does he have the solution?  Realistic one(s).