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Dilaab’s quixotic campaign

At the third quarterly meeting of the Cebu Citizens-Press Council that I attended upon the invitation of this paper’s publisher, Eileen Mangubat, I could almost hear the snickers of some media colleagues when a young woman stood up to give updates about a citizens’ campaign against vote-buying.

The “I Vote Good” campaign is spearheaded by the Circles of Discernment for Empowerment, a focus group created by the Dilaab Foundation. For brevity, I will call it Circles. It is led by Jenny Lea Tan, who together with other young volunteers, educate people against the evils of vote selling and vote buying.

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The “I Vote Good” drive also encourages people to use the LASER test (for lifestyle, action, supporters, election conduct and reputation)  to ascertain the moral rectitude and competence of candidates who will be up for judgement by voters 11 days from now.

Volunteers have gone around barangays in Cebu, Mandaue and Talisay cities to give pep talks on clean and honest elections.  To catch the interest of people especially in marginalized communities, Dilaab founder Fr. Carmelo Diola has come up with a catchphrase, “Usa ka adlawng kalipay, tulo ka tuig nga pagmahay.” One day of happiness, three years of remorse.

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It’s a catchy slogan all right, but I think it’s not just three years of suffering when people elect an incompetent and corrupt candidate because once in office, he will see to it that other family members will inherit his position and then build a political dynasty that will rule for generations.

Dili kaha mas haum og tukma ang, “usa ka adlawng kalipay, tibuok kinabuhi nga pagmahay”?

Vote buying, like violence and electoral fraud is a reality in Philippine elections and as a political observer for many decades, I can’t recall an election, whether barangay, local or national, which has not been mired in the so-called three G’s: guns, goons and gold.

Nowadays, the gold could not just buy  votes but also the technology employed in the computerized election and canvassing, according to some quarters.  That is quite speculative because if a politician were to resort to that kind of fraud, he can only do so on a limited scale, meaning he can only achieve the desired results if he tampers with the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS– machines on a wide scale—and therein lies the rub, the risk that the deception would be exposed and everything would go  kaput.

In my view, voters’ education that derives from Christian values is still the best approach to reform the system.

In 2001, the vote buying rate was  said to be at P200 to P300 per voter.  In the 2004 presidential elections, I almost fell off my seat after it was reported that the rate shot up to a minimum of P500 per voter. My household helper who hails from Siargao island told me that in her hometown, some people receive money practically from all candidates and make as much as P8,000 during elections.  She said that candidates who don’t have resources can still manage to give away groceries.

Let’s face it, people who live in the fringes of society—and they number in the millions in our country –  do not understand the intricacies of governance and will always look at some ways to make money for which  the elections provide them with such opportunities.

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Even people who earn salaries will find the dictum, “If you can’t lick them, join them” practical because they know it has become part and parcel of the system.  Indeed, a few hundreds or thousands of pesos could go a long way—anyway, these politicians are all the same, puli-puli rag panikas (politicians take turns in deceiving the people).

With that kind of mindset, I’m not surprised that in a recent poll conducted among voting age respondents in Butuan City, 80 percent of 1,833 said they were willing to receive money in exchange for votes in the May 2013 elections.

At least 32 percent of the respondents were youth voters (age 18 to 35) and of the number, 50 percent said they would use the money for cellphone load, frolicking, alcoholic drinks and to pay debts.

Those of us who have lived through the martial law era will admit to some frustrations and  distrust in the political system, but I still think that it served the purpose of checking what the politicians are doing.

However, the result of the FSUU survey is appalling because it implies that many young people don’t have any values and that an election has become a convenient tool to feed their whims and caprices. How many of them have seen their elders sell their votes? How many of them have in fact been used as support groups of politicians in buying votes?

That is why even if Dilaab’s cause maybe viewed as quixotic or unrealistic, I fully support the campaign. To allow vote buying to be part of the electoral system is to embrace evil.

I hope the zeal of Jenny and her colleagues will draw other young people to the moral cause.  I think the worst sin that today’s leaders and older people can do to the next generation is to leave them without moral direction and hope.

Results cannot be expected overnight, but paraphrasing the words of Fr. Diola, we just have to do it “one conscience, one family and one sitio” at a time.

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TAGS: Elections 2013, vote-buying
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