Today's Punto
Today's Punto
Vote vending
By Bong Lacson

May 10, 2018

FIVE PESOS for every voter is all that is allowed by Comelec rules for candidates to spend in the barangay elections.

What can five measly pesos still buy these days of TRAIN Law and its consequent surge in the prices of just about everything, in the spike in inflation rate?

Yay, even that street urchin knocking on car windows at the intersection of MacArthur Highway and Magalang Ave. in Angeles City would take a five peso coin as an insult to his begging.

Sheer self-delusion of the Comelec to believe its five-peso-per-voter limitation is ever followed. Candidates spend, even only in barangay polls, b y the hundreds of thousands, even millions of pesos. As much for the campaign paraphernalia, as for the direct purchase of votes.

The vote hereabouts has been so commodifi ed as to be less governed by the law of suffrage as by the law of supply and demand. No need to engage here in the chicken-or-egg causality dilemma: which came first, votebuying or vote-vending?

Whichever, vote buy-and-sell is here to stay. And I can only write about it, all judgments, personal and moral, suspended. Thus:

An honest voter, to paraphrase one 19th century American politician, “is one who, when bought, will stay bought.”

A caveat emptor though is necessary here: What is the warranty given the buyer that whom he/she bought stayed “honest” all the way to the poll precinct?

This becomes all too problematic given the exhortations of pastors: Kunin ang pera, sundin ang konsiyensiya! and Kunin ang pera, iboto ang kursunada! Some scam there, were it not for its moral mooring.

To get their money’s worth, what politicians and their strategists did in the business of vote-buying in manual elections past was to provide carbon paper – along with half of the pay – to the payee which he/she was required to sandwich between the ballot and a piece of paper. That paper was to be presented to the “coordinator” of the payer for the other half of the agreed-upon price for the vote.

Technology upgraded voting with the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. So was the carbon paper upgraded to the cell phone. The payee now required to take a photo of his accomplished ballot with his mobile to prove that he/she did his/her part of the bargain.

Pre-election buying of votes has even less guarantees of “honest” returns. If a voter can sell his/her vote to one candidate, what prevents him/her to sell it to the rival candidate? As there are double deals in government contracts for so-called SOPs, so there are double sales of votes.

Indeed, long and loud are the lamentations of losing candidates over the waste of so much money on voters who just (re)sold out to the higher bidder.

Wise to the ways of “dishonest” voters, a local candidate in the 2010 elections was reported to have corralled the voters that were purchased 30 hours before the elections, providing them with food and accommodations as well as bags of goodies, thereby preventing them from being bought back by the rival.

Before the precincts opened, the quartered voters were herded like sheep to their respected polling places.

Thus, the dictum: Secure, hide what you have purchased, lest they be stolen from you.

In the 2013 campaign, vote-buying was said to have taken a different turn. Voters were asked, in exchange for cash, not anymore to vote for a certain candidate but not to vote at all.

Through honest surveys, a candidate knows the bailiwicks of his/her opponent. It is there that money is widely spent on the rival’s supporters for them not to bother voting anymore. Just to be sure that their money is spent wisely and the bought voter stayed “honest,” indelible ink shall be put on his/her forefinger on election day.

In one town, it was said that the going rate for the no-voter was P1,500. That’s quite a sum compared to the paltry P300 per vote bandied about in one city. Which reminds me of the now lamented, dearly departed Tirso G. Lacanilao, three-term mayor of Apalit.

Campaigning for his second and last reelection, Pogi Lacanilao lambasted – on stage – voters who commodified their ballots, thus: Mababa ko pa uri kesa karing babi. King P300 pisali yu pati kaladuwa yu. Ing babi halaga ne man libu-libo. (You have lesser value than pigs. For P300 you sold your very souls. The pig costs thousands of pesos at least).”

Shame before swine. Awfully shameless.

A consolation for those who don’t buy, who can’t buy, who won’t buy votes: One can only buy so much.

In a tight contest though, that so much can be more than enough to make the difference. Yeah, there’s a bargain sale of votes out there. Voting receipts, or not.

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