December 8, 2022

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Transparency International admits: “Vote-buying is a disturbing trend across Asia.”
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ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY, Philippines

Manny, who asked to keep real identity anonymous, has no idea about vote-buying or vote-selling. What he knows was that every election, which happens every three years, politicians give money to voters in exchange for their votes.

“I don’t know if that is vote-buying,” the 42-year-old farmer said in dialect. He does not call it as vote-selling either.

It is purely a simple transaction between a candidate to public office and the voters, he flatly asserts.

It is a common practice, says another tricycle driver plying the commercial center area of Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay, his eyes scan for possible passengers.

“Who can give bigger amount, will get my vote,” he flatly admitted.

For Josefa, pragmatism was the reason why she accepts money in exchange of her vote during election.

“They are all corrupt, so better accept money from them,” says the mother of three.

Vote-buying or vote-selling is pervasive, according to a study conducted by the Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA).

In 2010, IPA said, about 30% of Philippine voters were “offered money by a politician or local leader.”

The number could have gone higher 12 years after the study.

Only days before the May 9 elections, many people went to social media denouncing the rampant vote-buying.

A netizen posted in social media the photo showing P1000-bill with printout of the name of a candidate for governor attached to it and another P500-bill for a candidate for Congress.

Each voter, according to a campaign staff of a politician who asked not to be identified, stands to receive as high as P4,000 before the election ends.

The amount could even go higher, he adds.

“Almost everyone is doing it,” he says as a matter of factly.

Transparency International admits: “Vote-buying is a disturbing trend across Asia.”

In a study, some 20,000 people across 17 countries were asked whether they were offered money in exchange of their votes.

The results? One in every seven people was offered money in exchange for votes in national or regional elections.

The number was the highest in Thailand and Philippines – 28% of the citizens were offered money in return of their votes.

It is not surprising that as the days before the elections getting nearer, more money is flowing to secure the victory at the polls.

“Is it illegal?” Manny asks.

Under the country’s Omnibus Election Code, vote-buying or vote-selling is illegal.

Section 261 of the Code says: “Any person who gives, offers or promises money or anything of value, gives or promises any office or employment, franchise or grant” is prohibited.

The Code also says that it is prohibited for “any person, association, corporation, group or community who solicits or receives, directly or indirectly, any expenditure of promise of any office or employment, public or private”.

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The Commission on Elections (COMELEC), in a memorandum issued by Commissioner Aimee Ferolino, head of Task Force Bigay, warned the public of the consequences of vote-buying or vote-selling.

The poll body will establish a Citizen Complaint Center (CCC) where the citizens can report incidents of vote-buying or –selling they may have witnessed.

Complaints can be filed either in person or through the official email addresses of local field offices of the COMELEC or public prosecutors. (Antonio Manaytay)

This story is supported by Internews under the Internews Philippines Story Grants 2022.

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