May 28, 2024

As the May 9 elections draw nearer, candidates and their supporters employ all possible tricks in the book to woo as many voters to vote for them, going even as far as buying votes.
Under the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), vote-buying is a grave election offense and anyone found guilty of buying or selling his/ her votes may be punished with imprisonment of as long as six years, disqualification from public office, or forfeiture of one’s right to vote, among others. No less than the present administration, through its communications arm, the Presidential Communications Operations Office, has reiterated the call to reject any form of vote-buying and ensure clean and honest elections.
Despite the warnings, it seems vote-buying/selling is still, sadly, rampant.
It is the right of every Filipino citizen to vote; to choose a leader who will lead the nation to success and prosperity. The vote is for each individual to make, but there are instances when this right is abused, like when individuals resort to vote buying or selling.
Vote buying happens as early as start of the campaign but becomes more extensive during election day. It comes in different forms. There are candidates or their supporters who entice voters to vote for them in exchange for a certain amount or other material things, favors, or promises of employment or positions in offices. There are those who pay an individual and sometimes the entire household to not vote at all, especially if the briber knows that they will vote for their opponent. Those who buy votes station their own people in barangays or polling precincts to ensure that those that they paid to not cast their votes stay home until voting period ends. There are also those who, upon learning that candidate A paid a voter, say P500 to vote for him/her, “buys them out” at the last minute by offering a higher amount in exchange for this voter to change his mind and vote for candidate B instead. There are also individuals who go straight to candidates or their supporters offering to sell their and their entire clan’s votes in exchange for money or whatever.
Several media outfits have run stories on why Filipinos allow for vote buying/selling to happen. Some say they do so out of utang na loob because in the past, this candidate helped them get out of bad situations. Some do out of “fear” of losing something important they are enjoying or benefitting from at the moment. Some, out of frustration that even if they vote for the person they think is best, it doesn’t change anything because they either end up losing or eventually turn out bad, eaten by the rotten system. Some, simply because they have lost faith in the integrity of the country’s voting system and have resigned to the dynasty-laden kind of politics. Some, to join the bandwagon because it is a common practice in their area and if you do not take part in it, you are ostracized. Some would say, “Better to get something out of this circus called election rather than nothing.” But most commonly, it boils down to dire financial needs. Candidates usually go to vote-rich areas, usually regional/provincial centers where the masa, who are “easily-wooed,” as these ruthless vote-buyers say, abound.
But no matter how one looks at it, vote buying/selling is not only wrong because the law says so. It is wrong because it is not the moral thing to do. It is disgraceful. For one, it is a form of exploitation of the vulnerable sector, of taking advantage of another Filipino to achieve a personal gain. Those who engage in vote-buying often target individuals who struggle financially, using their condition as an excuse for them to accept the bribe. I see this as a form of insult too. Lugmok na nga sa hirap, lalo mo pang tinatapakan at ibinababa sa pamamagitan ng pagmamaliit ng kanilang dignidad at pagbili ng kanilang paninindigan.
A person’s vote is sacred. No one can, and should, put a price tag on a vote. We were created by God to have our own mind, capable of making our own decisions, including who we wish to lead us to progress. In our lives, we should have proper discernment of why we do certain things. In so many things, we are given only one chance to speak up and a lot of times we cannot take them back. Once you cast a vote, you can never take it back.
Vote buying disrespects our democracy because like previously said, being able to vote is a right all of capable legal age should enjoy.
People involved in vote buying/selling are sometimes accused of being selfish, thinking of their own benefit before the good of the country, which is not what the Filipino character is known for.
For as long as we breathe, we should not lose hope. I will not lose hope. I will do my best to uphold what is lawfully and morally right. On May 9, I will vote for the person I think best represents my ideals and principles. I will do my best to influence others to do the same (not necessarily vote for my bet but to vote according to their own conscience) so that we, together, can help restore faith in humanity.
Like my mom’s friend she calls Tina bunso, it is my prayer too that we remember who we were before this circus began, because at the end of this circus, we are the ones who have to live with ourselves once again. My parents got Japanese, Korean, and American friends and they, along with others from different parts of the world say we are one of the warmest, happiest people on earth. Let us each do our share to keep it that way.
As Tina bunso says, and I totally agree, find the good, see the good, be the good. (JUSTIN B. ZAMBRANO)