Legalize vote-buying, anyone?
posted 12-Jun-2019  ·  
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A local crusader has written President Rodrigo Duterte primarily to consider the legalization of vote-buying and vote-selling that was rampant in the recent and past elections.

Jun Obusan-Torres, whose tricycle sported a tarpaulin on his advocacy during the run-up to the May 13 national and local elections, asked the president to urge lawmakers in Congress and the Commission on Elections to amend the Omnibus Election Code, particularly Article XXII, Section 261, paragraph a, on the persistent practice which according to Torres has been accepted in the country.

He reasoned that legalizing vote-buying and vote-selling would be similar to the past government action in legalizing gambling through the Small Town Lottery (STL), regulating illegal gambling, generating income for the government and providing livelihood to franchise owners and bet collectors.

“For most Filipinos of whatever status of living, to give or receive a gift of any kind or any monetary amount during election period will be helpful and even satisfying as long as they are not being coerced or intimidated and they decide by themselves whom to vote into office,” Torres stated.

In his personal observation, not to engage in vote-buying and vote-selling or refusing to receive a gift is a matter of personal or religious conviction. The practice should not be considered as a crime but accepted as part of the Filipinos’ culture of generosity.

He cites the P5 per voter election expense, for instance, as not realistic as it cannot cope with the increasing costs of campaign materials and other basic campaign expenses.

Thus, he proposes that all aspiring local candidates be allowed to spend a maximum of P100 per voter, with national bets allowed P50 per voter, for campaign expenses and “gift-giving” or financial assistance for the electorate. They will also be required to pay an election expenditures tax of 30%, payable a day before the election.

In underscoring the reality of vote-buying and vote-selling, he cited results in local elections in Catanduanes where voters preferred candidates who gave lesser amounts than their opponents. He also pointed to vote-buyers securing the protection and partiality of some men in uniform.

Mr. Obusan-Torres expressed his support for the President in his battle against criminality and corruption, lauding his boldness and frankness in his style of governance.

“Please pardon me and disregard my request if my petition is not in line with your principle, and if the idea could not help the country,” he said in conclusion.

The advocate against vote-buying may have thrown in the towel against the corruption that candidates foist upon the electorate, regardless of their educational backgrounds or social status.

But the COMELEC and idealists, who continue to hope for free, fair and honest elections in the future, are expected to stand their ground against giving in to electoral corruption.

While it may not garner support among them, Mr. Obusan-Torres’ proposal should stir the authorities in crafting better laws against vote-buying specifically targeted against candidates, and not against voters, most of whom do not have much choice but to accept the bribe.

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