Little-known facts about vote-buying


It’s 3 weeks before Election Day on May 13 and pretty soon we will know who will sit in the Senate and the House of Representatives, and who our leaders will be at the local level. I hope the past Holy Week afforded you enough time to reflect and think about the country’s future, what’s at stake, and who are truly worthy to be called our leaders. As we say in Filipino, “Dapat nagmuni-muni ka na.”

In a democracy such as ours, it’s truly important for institutional checks and balances to work. An overly powerful executive branch without sufficient checks from the judiciary or the legislature (most especially the Senate, which has traditionally been perceived to be more independent than the House of Representatives) will facilitate the shift to authoritarian rule.

Some have insisted that because we have a working press and opposition (or at least some semblance of it) exists, the Philippines is still very much a vibrant democracy. I would argue that much of it has been subverted, that is why the coming elections are as critical as we probably realize.


For this week, we will be paying attention to the phenomenon of vote-buying. In the past, it had been associated with candidates and their ward leaders bribing voters, paying them cash and offering them goodies and what-have-you in exchange for their vote.

Election lawyer Emil Marañon III had written about it and explained that vote-buying is actually more expansive than we thought and actually goes beyond the cash or the dole-outs given either during rallies or on Election Day itself. You might find this instructive: [EXPLAINER] Vote-buying is not just giving or taking cash

Attorney Marañon pointed out, for example, that, based on the Omnibus Election Code, expenses during rallies can be considered as vote-buying. Secton 89 of the Code is categorical:
Section 89. Transportation, food and drinks. - It shall be unlawful for any candidate, political party, organization, or any person to give or accept, free of charge, directly or indirectly, transportation, food or drinks or things of value during the five hours before and after a public meeting, on the day preceding the election, and on the day of the election; or to give or contribute, directly or indirectly, money or things of value for such purpose.
Giving and accepting these are tantamount to a crime, which is punishable by imprisonment and disqualification from office. Did you know that? Honestly, I wasn’t aware of this myself and had taken for granted that busing people who attend rallies and feeding them had become acceptable. Why? Because no one has gone to jail for it!

In the many years that this country has held elections and countless rallies, the Commission on Elections hasn’t sanctioned anyone, has it?

In addition, according to Attorney Marañon, the law covers “any person” (not just candidates, political parties, or partisans) who engages in vote-buying. In addition, it can be done two ways – through persuasion and material inducements, or what is termed as “negative” vote-buying.

What does negative vote-buying entail? Essentially preventing people from voting – whether by putting indelible ink on their fingers, manufacturing what can be perceived to be a “dangerous situation,” or even kidnapping them. The options are endless!

(Source: Rappler)