Of Poverty and Vote-buying Correlation (A Curious Case in Barlig and Elsewhere)

Despite the existence of laws and ordinances against vote-buying, it remains to be a rampant practice that continue to hound the Philippine political system.

Election just came to pass and we have seen or heard how desperate politicians took every measure to amass the larger votes. Those who could afford have resorted even to the dirtiest means of gaining public favor.
This may be a bane to our political system and constitution but it’s a shower of blessing for many of our poor countrymen.
Section 261 (a) of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines (Batas Pambansa Blg. 881) states that vote-buying and vote-selling are prohibited acts which are punishable by the said law. But such remains to a severe and persistent neglect by the general populace. In fact, it has even become a norm in many communities especially within marginalized areas.
In the municipality of Barlig, Mt. Province, vote buying has been openly perpetrated during the recent election. Representatives and even politicians themselves went house to house distributing money-containing envelopes which are then readily accepted.
According to Nelson Cael, a local barangay official, the prevalence of vote buying in the area is severed by the fact that it is isolated from the mainstream society, making it uneasy to detect such unlawful act. Moreover, its voting population of roughly 3000 has made it easier for prying politicians to facilitate vote buying. He made mention that almost every household were given money from the candidates.
Pinpointing Poverty and other causes
Barlig remains to be a fifth class municipality. Though the population is self-sustaining with the abundance of fertile lands which they cultivate for rice and other crops, many are still unable to satisfy their basic needs. Some families could not even afford to send their children to college, thus, some of those who graduate from high school are compelled to labor already or just become “tambays.” The internet sensation Jeyrick Sigmaton, or famously known as “Carrot Man,”  who traces his root from Kadaclan and Lias of Barlig is a manifestation of the harsh realities of life in the area. Given that, many of the locals have moved to the city in search of greener pasture.
According to Cael, this is one reason why the locals would readily accept offers by politicians, even if they know that it’s against the law or against their conscience. Even worse, they become negligent to the fact that their votes count in the election since they need the money to cater to their daily expenses even though it is just for a temporary basis.
“Uray mu kakun siyan ifutus ku, arak latta say ichat na ta isuka pay ay pangfayad sin otang ya panglakus usar. Kuta paykang maelakwa mu achi awatun tay am-in ay kataku-taku asna at chacha makinabang sin ichat nan politicians (Even if I would not vote for a certain politicians, I would still accept his offer to help pay my debts and in buying other necessities. We would only be pitiful and isolated if we would not accept the politician’s offer since all people around are doing the same thing),” expressed Chuna (not her real name), a local voter.
“Mid talagan maatun tanu senaang nan mantongtongan sunga man-arak ah nan ichat nan politicians. Isuka ka pay oray nu illegal. (There is no other choice if you are speaking about being hungry but to immediately grab what politicians would have to give. Somehow, it would help though it is illegal),” added another voter who chose not to be named.
Apart from poverty, Abe Diokno, an online blogger and writer in his article titled “Causes of Vote Buying,” noted that competitiveness is another factor why vote buying is prevalent. Accordingly, this strict competition compels candidates to get the upper hand against their opponents even to the point of resorting to vote buying as means of cheating. This is even fueled by some candidates’ desire for power that they will stop at nothing in order to get more votes.
A certain candidate for the municipal councilor whom I talked to mentioned that even though he is aware of the law deterring vote-buying, he could not help but resort to such method because all of his fellow candidates are doing it.
“Kuta pay kang maamis nu maid pelak ay ewaras (I would definitely lose if I won’t give money,” he said.
Diokno furthered that another reason is that vote-buying is not being looked down in our society and in fact, have become a norm during elections. Since it is considered a norm, more and more candidates do not see the need for them to stop this form of electoral fraud. Moreover, there are not many candidates who are punished for this crime making it a viable option for candidates to allow them to win.
Of Implications and Solutions

“Don’t let a person who has dirty hands handle your country, your life and the future of your children.”
While vote buying as a form of corruption may be likened to a contagious disease that keeps on perpetuating itself even among innocent ones, there are prior measures which could be undertaken to resolve it. And this entails collective efforts both from the authorities and the locals themselves.
Victoriano Q. Abrugar, a respected journalist and political analyst, mentions several mechanisms to abate vote-buying and corruption as a whole.
First, vote sellers and vote brokers must be punished. As Abrugar noted, corrupt voters give birth to corrupt politicians, thus, stopping corruption means eliminating it at its birth, that is, during elections.
There is also a need for the COMELEC and other concerned agencies to do their best in educating and warning all voters across the country. Informing people through the Internet and social media is not enough through, since 2/3 of our populations don’t have good access to the Internet yet. Our government has to increase efforts to reach, educate, and warn voters in the rural areas.
Meanwhile, COMELEC chairman Sixto Brillantes advised the public to remain vigilant and not to fear in reporting campaign violations, including online activities and vote buying, by using #SumbongKo on social media.
“For the most part, communities are aware of vote buying operations. That’s how it spreads, by word of mouth. Report it,” added James Jimenez, COMELEC spokesperson.
Indeed, a single vote can rake you with P50, P100, and P100 000, or even more. It could make you happy for a day or two, buy you some new items, or even feed your family for some time. But remember that once you pick the wrong candidate, then the future of country, your family and yourself would be compromised. And that would not be pretty after all.//Daniel Jason M. Maches

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