Will you buy votes if assured of victory?
I have been thru many campaigns since my father ran for Congress and my mom for mayor.
I have been witness to vote buying and I have seen how it has evolved and grown over the different elections. For the uninitiated, vote buying is perhaps imagined as transactions in dimly lit alleys in the late night before the election day. Few understand how operators have nuanced this exercise to make it utterly undetectable.
Straightforward transactions have evolved into new forms. Some would hire thousands of coordinators per Purok with a pyramid recruitment incentive. People have gotten so used to it that many already believe this is the norm.
In 2010, when I ran for Congress, I was campaigning in one of the barangays in Cabiao. I was in a small caucus with about 50 people, mostly senior citizens. We spent about 30 minutes talking about senior wellness. After a few discussions, one of the seniors struggled and stood up, with an authoritative voice said, “Magkano ba ang ating usapan para magkayarian na tayo dito?”
The person who spoke had blackened lower legs. It was already gangrene because of severe diabetes. It is a sign that the tissues on his legs are in decay and withering due to lack of blood. I tried to change the topic without saying he was wrong. I brought up senior health by discussing diabetes.
But his retort just confronted me with a more direct confrontation. With his last question I responded with a smile and a nod as I changed the topic again. I shifted my body and my eyes towards another person. In time I was pulled to the same conversation but with a different person. When I explained why vote buying was bad, the senior who brought it up finally rebuked me and said, “Bata ka pa kasi at hindi mo alam ang tunay at tamang pamumulitika. Matuto ka sa amin, sanay na kami. Ito ang tama para manalo ka.”
I went home hanging on to the illusion that it was his way of helping me win. But of course, I knew better. I asked myself. 'How can a man who is in deep need still choose to sell his votes. During the staff meet, I quipped and said, "Nasa pre-departure na si lolo, pasaway pa."
Kaya Natin Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, together with Ateneo School of Government and the Transparency and Accountability Network launched a campaign called 'MAKE IT COUNT: Dahil walang Katumbas Na Pera Ang Boto Mo'.
This initiative hopes to challenge candidates to refrain from the common practice of vote buying. Harvey Keh, KN Lead Convenor said, "Vote buying has been a persistent sore in our elections; it has, unfortunately, become an expected practice among candidates."
The effort started off with a covenant signing of candidates last February 13 at Club Filipino. Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. says voting buying is so pervasive that banks sometimes run out of cash during election period. With the automation of Comelec, the different levels of vote buying was reduced but they still need help, according to Chairman Brillantes.
Harvey Key added, "It is a campaign for Filipinos, but most of all, it is a campaign of Filipinos. We hope that every Filipino will be vigilant this campaign season. As part of the “Make It Count” campaign, we will be opening channels of communication where ordinary Filipinos can report vote buying (or vote selling) incidents in their area. Verified information will then be passed along to the Commission on Elections for appropriate action, and if proper, penalize the offender."
Congressman Erin Tañada stressed that the advocacy must be a continuous effort.
Kaya Natin Champion and former Governor of Southern Leyte Rosette Lerias said, "The church should urge the people at mass every Sunday from now till elections to pledge not to sell their votes. Ito as isang Panata ng Bayan. We need to make it a covenant with The Lord to fight corruption starting with the choice we make". Gov. Rosette Lerias is running for mayor of Maasin City this coming elections.
Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, Kaya Natin Chairman, during the KN Leader's Retreat, said: "Comelec must crack down on candidates that are buying votes." He left a striking message to the Kaya Natin Champions and said, "How you win will determine the way you will govern."
Senator TG Guingona said that it is difficult to prosecute vote buying but it should not dishearten us from pursuing this.
Kaya Natin's launch does not mean we expect to end vote buying in 2013. Unfortunately, the dynamics are more complex than just having a law.
Vince Lazatin, lead convenor of Transparency and Accountability Network, said that we cannot just keep running voters education and teach people the mechanics of voting. He says that the people are already smart and are ready for a deeper awareness in voting properly.
This launch marks a continuing commitment to strengthen our leaders to enable them to battle vote buying.
This commitment involves understanding the dynamics of vote buying, the power and corruption involved. We need to understand how vote buying is the most fundamental and profound of corruption because it involves the people. We have to understand how vote buying will result to corruption of infra structures and basic services. WE HAVE TO UNDERSTAND HOW VOTE BUYING TARGETS POVERTY AND IS ULTIMATELY IS A CAUSE OF IT.
During my closing address at the launch, I reminded the candidates who signed, "So kung kayo ay pipirma, you need to know that this is not just a one time thing or for 2013. If it is, it will be just for show. This promise is a continuing commitment to use your capacity and be innovative to fight vote buying…. just like Mayor Jesse did in Naga."
Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message through Facebook. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jesslorenzo for stories of good governance. Jess Lorenzo is currently one of the core group of Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership's public health initiatives. www.kayanatin.org @kayanatin on TwitterDisclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.