Vote-buying is so far the nastiest disease affecting the political system of our country today.
Article XXII of the Omnibus Election Code defines vote buying as giving, offering, or promising money, favors, or jobs in exchange for getting a person’s vote for the principal or causing the person to vote against somebody else. It holds criminally liable both the vote buyer and vote seller.
According to politicians, the money or gifts whatever form they may be are part of sharing their blessings or the so-called “goodwill”. But wouldn’t it be possible to share their blessings days or maybe years before election time?
Political-minded people will not waste their money for nothing. After assumption to their posts, they will always find a way to rebate what they have lost and the only way is through corruption. They will resort to any kind of dishonesty through their power and influences to bring back what they had given and even acquire greater wealth.
Many Filipinos condemn vote-buying but still patronize it. This brings about the fact that majority of the candidates are well-off (they can give) and majority of the voters are poor (they will likely receive).
Under the law, anybody found guilty will be imprisoned from 1 year to 6 years and will be permanently barred from holding any public office and will be denied their right of suffrage.
However, to date, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has yet to prosecute a single candidate for vote buying. This was due to the reason that no individual who received money has submitted a formal report to the commission.
Last December, 2012, COMELEC Commissioner Grace Padaca said that in order to attain reforms in the political system of the country, children must be taught in school about elections so that they will know early in life that vote buying is not, and should not be, the norm in deciding who to vote.
As students, we must be completely aware that goods and other services offered and distributed in time of elections are simple yet pure ways of vote-buying. Even plain giving of candies (common) in grade school pupils is considered one.
Still, during the 2011 Student Council Elections at CSU between Rodriguez and Rima, the latter’s party was reported to have been involved in vote-buying by conducting ‘house-to-house’ campaign while distributing goods (e.g. sardines, rice, noodles) to every student. Majority of Rima’s line-up won which only indicates that students support candidates based on what they have received from them not on what these candidates can do for the organization.
However, no candidate was punished amid the issue, since no one filed a formal complaint before the COMELEC.
Hence, to lessen incidence if not to completely eradicate vote-buying, every student must not accept anything from a candidate during the period of polls. This is helpful in deciding who is best, based on the candidate’s capacity and ability to perform the task mandated by the position and in saving you from your conscience. Through this, ‘vote-buyers’ will eventually stop using their money to ensure their spot in the elections.
Filipinos especially the youths may also join the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) – a group which serves as poll watchdog and initiates measures to discourage vote-buying in all elections.
Our vote is sacred. It is our ultimate weapon to attain true independence and concrete development. Let us be firm. Money must not be the norm in choosing the right candidate.
Sometimes we must learn to say no. Our votes are not for sale. ■
Abygale A. Bagadiong