In one of the busy afternoons of Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Manong Romy (not his real name) traverses the streets of the University Town carrying a placard that, instead of carying a photo of a candidate, resonates a cause albeit an unpopular advocacy among the electorate: “Ayuda sa Politiko Atoa ng Kwartaha Dili Ilaha” (Aid From the Politician is Our Money, Not Theirs). At the back of the placard, more words spew out harsh truth: “Dawaton Ang Kwarta, Dili Nato Botohan” (Take the Money, Don’t Vote [Them]). The people have seen and read it maybe by a glance or a second look; but have they actually understood the meaning of the words ‘Nong Romy wanted to convey?
In today's 2022 Philippine National and Local Elections, politicians are now scrambling for the home stretch run. Today's election will be the seal that would determine the fate of each running candidate.
Along the streets, days prior, campaign teams walk to and from in obvious desperation to convince the undecided, hired vehicles parading politician's faces with accompanying serene-breaking jingle anthems tirelessly wander the roadways, and community leaders crack their joints to commence the 'pangamang' - a local term which literally means to crawl, to creep or to sneak; a subtle word to describe vote buying in general.
The Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines, however, is not that kind when it specifically defined vote buying as “any person who gives, offers or promises money or anything of value, gives or promises any office or employment, franchise or grant, public or private, or makes or offers to make an expenditure, directly or indirectly, or cause an expenditure to be made to any person, association, corporation, entity, or community in order to induce anyone or the public in general to vote for or against any candidate or withhold his vote in the election, or to vote for or against any aspirant for the nomination or choice of a candidate in a convention or similar selection process of a political party.”
What usually happens with corrupt officials is that they make business out of government services. For example, a dishonest local official during their 3-year term would amass great wealth through unimaginable ways only conniving minds could conjure. This is in expense of taxpayers money meant for services to the public. The siphoned money will then be given back to the people during election time with the grand illusion of aid by a loving politician to his faithful constituents. With a clamoring public that mostly lives with 'isang kahig-isang tuka', the money is one big hallelujah. The story hits differently among those seeking a first shot with politics. They borrow huge sums of money to fund their campaign with a conflicting assurance that upon winning the coveted seat, the loaned money will be paid in full with profit to spare for the next elections. Politics becomes profitable in the sense that once you are in power you control where and how money is spent, you take a lion's-share with every projects, and you can bribe anyone to do your bidding. This is the sad reality for most of our country where corrupt practices are deeply rooted. Here comes the relevance of ‘Nong Romy, here comes the resonating truth of ‘Nong Romy's placard. Indeed, that aid from the politician is our money, not theirs, and we do not owe them anything for that.
Laws and regulations are already in place to stop the proliferation of vote buying but a consenting public and a weak enforcing unit proved them all futile. Vote buying will always be around so long as the principles of "utang-na-loob" or debt of honor, the padrino system, poverty, and corruption continues to penetrate our political systems. It will never justify corruption.
Manong Romy is just one of the noble individuals who strongly advocate for elections not run by money but by an ideal democracy where votes truly make a stand rather than sold.
His bravery is admirable; an everyday 'Juan' with the zeal for a brighter future. This election day, one could only hope that this growing republic would steer towards what is right: where candidates platforms' matter more than 'ayudas', and where voters do not exchange 3 or 6 years of government for mere hundreds of pesos.