COMELEC warns: Vote buying thru ayuda, vaccines

Possible more widespread vote buying in 2022


QUEZON CITY - The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) warns the public that politicians may use the disbursement of ayuda or government financial assistance and the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccinations to buy votes in the upcoming 2022 elections.


“Sigurado iyan. Sigurado may magsusubok niyan. Balita nga ngayon, mas maraming vaccine kaysa sa gusto magpa-vaccinate. Di ko alam how effective but sigurado may magsasabi niyan na ‘pag binoto niyo ko, babakunahan ko kayo’,” COMELEC Spokesperson Director James Jimenez said in an interview with pro-democracy coalition PARTICIPATE.


Citing previous elections, Director Jimenez explained that some candidates used government services like the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) to buy votes.


“Meron nga, nagsasabi na kapag binoto ninyo ako, isasama ko kayo sa 4Ps. Meron ding nagsasabi na kapag hindi niyo ako binoto, tatanggalin ko kayo sa 4Ps. Lahat ng pwede magamit pang impluwensya ng boto ay gagawin ng mga gumagawa ng vote buying,” Director Jimenez said.


“Iyan ang sinasabi ko na pangako ng impluwensiya. Pangako ng serbisyo ng gobyerno na iwi-withhold o ibibigay depende kung sino ang nag-aalok. Kasama sa vote buying ‘yan,” he added.


The COMELEC spokesperson also said that many Filipinos believe it when politicians promise to deliver or threaten to withhold government services in exchange for their votes.


“May level of respect na binibigay ang taongbayan (sa kandidato). Kasama ng respect ay ang tiwala na kaya niya gawin ang sinasabi niya. Kapag binalaan ka na hindi ka makakatanggap ng serbisyo, tendency ng pangkaraniwang Pilipino ay maniwala,” he explained.


More widespread vote buying


COMELEC also expects vote buying to be more widespread this election due to restrictions brought by the pandemic.


“Mas madali ngayon vote buying dahil sa e-payments or mobile payment system. Dahil mas madali vote buying, napakadali rin mismo na maganyak ang mga tao na mag-engage in vote buying. Pangalawa, mga kandidato, mahihirapan mangampanya. May matatakot na baka kailangan dagdagan chance ng pagkapanalo, (kaya) magre-resort sila sa vote buying,” Director Jimenez explained.


According to Director Jimenez, vote buyers paid voters P20 to P50,000 each to buy votes back in 2019.


Based on a study by the Ateneo School of Government, previous elections show that vote buying was worse in areas where there was tight competition among candidates.


“Mas laganap vote buying sa mga lugar na mahigpit ang eleksyon. Ayon sa nakaraang survey, mas maraming vote buying, particularly gamit ang pera, sa mga lugar na mahigpit ang eleksyon. Meron pa ring vote buying sa mga lugar na hindi mahigpit ang eleksyon. Pero napansin naming base sa datos, pag hindi mahigpit ang eleksyon, ginagamit ay hindi pera (kung hindi) bagay, tshirt, o grocery,” Economist and Professor Tristan Canare said.


Canare is among the authors of the vote buying study titled An empirical analysis on vote buying among the poor: Evidence from elections in the Philippines, 2018.


He also explained that their study shows that vote buying is more effective when political patronage or dependency has already been established even before the election season.


“Ayon sa resulta ng aming survey, hindi ganoon ka-epektibo ang vote buying kung vote buying lang. Halimbawa, pumunta ka sa lugar nang malapit na eleksyon. Kandidato ka, at itong mga tao meron na silang napili na iboboto. Kung doon ka palang manghi-hikayat, doon palang magvo-vote buying, hindi ganoon ka-epektibo. Mas epektibo kung bago pa eleksyon, nakapag-establish ka na ng political dependency o political patronage,” Canare said.


“Ano ba ang patronage? Ibig sabihin, ang pulitiko kahit bago pa eleksyon, mga taon, lumilibot na sa lugar na marami nangangailangan. Nags-sponsor ng libing, kasal, basketball tournament, nagbibigay tulong sa nasunugan, bahay, bagyo. Nage-establish sila ng political dependency. Dapat alam ng constituents na puwede sila dumepende sa pulitiko na ito. Pag na-establish na ng pulitiko ang political patronage, ang vote buying ay pandagdag nalang sa loyalty ng botante sa pulitko. Di pwede paghiwalayin kung gusto maging effective vote buying,” he added.


Canare, however, reminded voters that while money from vote buying may benefit them for a couple of days, they may have to suffer its consequences for several years.


“Sa pagpili ng boto, tignan ang track record at platform. Those will determine how they will perform kung nakaupo na. Ang vote buying itatawid ka ng isa hanggang tatlong araw pero kapag nakaupo na ang binoto, di ka sure kung ano gagawin sa next three to six,” Canare said.


The video interviews with Jimenez and Canare are part of the Vote for Sale series launched by PARTICIPATE that discusses vote buying, its forms, and its effect in the elections. The series can be accessed on the PARTICIPATE Facebook page or at www.inclusivedemocracy.ph/botopedia.