Friday, April 23, 2010

Of Bottled Water and Vote Buying


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In a farm by the countryside, before a farmer kills one of his livestock, he is interested in prolonging the life of his livestock and fattening them up before the kill. This is done so that the farmer can earn the highest possible yield in meat. The farmer shows an act of fake mercy and generosity towards his livestock before zeroing in on the kill. An act of fake mercy and generosity.

This reminds me of the upcoming elections. The situation in a farm before the slaughter is the same with the situation in a country before an election. In the Philippines for example, most of the candidates for the upcoming elections make sure that we are properly fattened and satisfied with them before we cast our votes. They send out relief goods and aid to impoverished localities or places hit by a calamity. Some politicians even ups the ante by distributing relief goods with their names or faces on it.


Ang mukhang ito ang papawi sa uhaw mo!

Then, when the elections are just days or weeks away, the candidates will now hand-out cash incentives to the voting public. Some do this discreetly while others have the audacity to do it out in the open. This act is called vote buying. According to wiktionary.com, vote buying is defined as "The distribution of a material benefit to an individual voter in exchange for support in a ballot." Here in the Philippines, money is still the best instrument for vote buying as it is practical and can be given to all sorts of people.

One of the worst things about vote buying in this country is that the people regard such act as legal or treats it with passivity. In our country, vote buying is considered as a part of the game and to such extent that most of the candidates participate in it. If a candidate does not participate in vote buying, then he has a lower chance of winning compared to those who buy votes. Vote buying is very important to such an extent that candidates reserve funds specifically for buying votes.

A friend once told me that he participates in such an act. He said that the modus operandi of the candidate is to make an inquiry of how many people in each household is going to vote in the upcoming elections, then they make these voting-eligible residents sign. After that, you just have to wait for the money to come. Presumably, the money will come before the elections and with it, you must pledge to vote for the candidate who gave you the money.

I asked my friend why does he participate in a mockery of the law. His reply was simple. He said that he will only take the money but he will never vote for the man/woman who gave it to her. He said that it would be a waste of money if he never accepted the proposal.He needed the money so he accepted it.

All across the country, scenarios like the one I stated above are happening. The candidates who resort to these tactics have different M.O.'s but they share the same goal. They are fattening the livestock before the kill.

The logic that "you will accept the money but I will never vote for the candidate" is still wrong. Why? Because, more often than not, the money that was used to pay for the votes of the people came from the pockets of millions of hardworking Filipinos who are honest enough to pay their taxes. In short, the money used to pay the voters belongs to the government. The money is supposed to be used for the development and for the aid of millions of impoverished Filipinos and are not supposed to be squandered by candidates who are seeking to be elected in public office. Worst of all, the electing public took part in it just because they "needed the money".

And even if the money that was used to buy votes came from the pockets of the candidates themselves, it is still improper to accept these incentives. Why? Because under Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines:

(a) Vote-buying and vote-selling. -
(1) 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.
(2) Any person, association, corporation, group or community who solicits or receives, directly or indirectly, any expenditure or promise of any office or employment, public or private, for any of the foregoing considerations.

Under the provisions stated above, vote buying is very much illegal in this country whether it came from the pockets of the candidates or not. And if you received the money, you are considered a person who sold his/her votes and, thus, you also committed a felony and you must be punished by law.

The problem with this country is we treat small offenses, that are deemed illegal by law, with nonchalance and we do not expect to be punished because, in our minds, we consider our "small" crime as irrelevant in the grand scale. However, the law is the law! And if we continue to take part in things like vote buying, we are also taking part in what is described as a "climate of impunity" where the felons do not get punished and this climate threatens to destroy the very fabric of Philippine society. We criticize big-time offenders for committing crime and going unpunished, yet we do not know that we are also a part of it.

When we take part in acts like this, we are not only selling our votes, we are also selling the soul of the country. We are allowing these corrupt officials to not only plunder the country's wealth but also the country's soul. We are exchanging long-term progress for short-term monetary gain.

What we do not know is that we are selling the future of the generations that are about to come. What we do not know is that we are erasing the sacrifices that our heroes made. And, thus, somewhere in the past, our heroes weep. Somewhere in the future, our children weep. While in the present, we do not care.

2 comments:

  1. Love & Respect!

    See my response here: http://reklamotion.blogspot.com/2010/04/on-bennards-bottled-water.html

    ReplyDelete