From “guns, goons and gold” to “glitters and gigabytes,” Philippine elections can go dirty and tawdry in many ways.
But over 40 candidates for top positions in the Makati City local elections pledged to shun violence, vote buying and muckraking both onstage and online as they signed a “Covenant of Hope” on Friday before election officials, church and poll watchdog groups.
“This is a strong message. Their signatures are a way of telling their constituents that their word is a bond, and that their word would correspond to their actions,” National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) Secretary General Eric Alvia said.
“Let’s not underestimate our voters,” Alvia said during the signing at San Carlos Seminary in Guadalupe, Makati.
Also present as witnesses were representatives from the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Philippine National Police, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, Namfrel and the Department of Education.
The covenant called on the candidates not to “corrupt any voter with money or impose (their) will upon him by way of force or violence, threat or intimidation (or) impair his power and freedom of choice.”
By signing, they also agreed to comply with the election gun ban, mind the conduct of their bodyguards and limit their campaign materials to Comelec-approved areas.
The document was premised on the principle that “the act of the subordinate is the act of the principal.”
It also called on the candidates to accept the election results and avoid delaying the proclamation of the winners.
Makati has 18 candidates running for councilor in the 1st District and 16 candidates in the 2nd District; four congressional candidates in the 1st district and two in the 2nd; and two vice mayoral candidates.
Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr., who is seeking reelection, is being challenged by Renato Bondal, an independent. Both of them, along with the other candidates, were present at the signing.
Alvia noted that if past elections were marked by “guns, goons and gold, now there are also glitters and gigabytes. If you don’t have bloggers to write about you or celebrities to make you famous, it’s hard to keep up with the game.”
But through the covenant, even lesser-known candidates or those with limited machinery will have a fair chance of winning, he said.
Alvia said Namfrel would like to see an end to muckraking or the use of underhanded tactics to win, and Philippine elections becoming more issue-oriented rather than based on popularity.
He cited instances where candidates would spread malicious or false information on their rivals.
He said the Makati covenant should serve as an example for other local government units.
Comelec’s National Capital Region director Jubil Surmieda acknowledged that the poll body had come under heavy criticism lately from quarters who still doubt its capability to implement a credible computerized balloting system in the May elections.
But Surmieda said “we do not consider going back to manual elections … We are confident that we can comply with all the deadlines. Our hardworking chair (Sixto Brillantes) is keen on proving his critics wrong.”
“I’m happy that we are not alone in making this election successful,” the poll official said, referring to the covenant’s proponents and signatories.