By Bo Rodulfo

Our brand of politics is unique.
MONEY and a strong POLITICAL MACHINERY – two factors that are needed to win in our kind of election. It’s not either-or, it should be both.
MONEY is the centerpiece of Catanduanes politics. Although the Alberto’s are credited for the massive infra projects in the island i.e. CSU and the capitol among others, there’s no denying that they also ‘championed’ this dark part of our politics. They are the fixture of vote-buying in our province – an action they started that eventually became the staple in every election.
Did the Alberto’s unwittingly design this plan that instead of promoting people’s livelihood i.e. promoting abaca among others ( our province being the biggest abaca supplier in the Philippines) as world market potential and generate investments, they instead focused on some “ cosmetics “ so our people remain poor and become dependent on their cash dole-outs during elections?
Sadly the toxin of vote-buying is extended even to the smallest barangay including government entities like Ficelco Board Election et al, where money played a big role.
POLITICAL MACHINERY – History tells us that on top of the money, well-oiled and trusted political machinery is also needed in order to win. I remember one candidate that elicits eyebrows from observers because despite the hefty financial advantage, the candidate turned out to be a perennial loser – only to realize that their ward leaders were pocketing the money due to poor organizational structure.
Moneyed candidates shamelessly leverage our weak political system to their advantage.
This is not to stigmatize rich politicians as election stealers, label them as cheaters – this is just our brand of politics that if unchecked, vote-buying will continue with no letup until money has still value. Government coffers bleed due to widespread corruption by winning candidates to recover the massive money spent during elections especially those top provincial positions.
A concerted effort of various sectors i.e. a province-wide educational drive that includes churches, the YOUTH, and local organizations can effect change. The church has been remiss in fighting against vote-buying – they should be more straightforward and attack ferociously this evil act. The Rotary and other civic-minded organizations should heavily get involved as well, for this campaign has a deeper impact on our society than “ pa picture-picture “ projects.
The government enforcers and the COMELEC should go hand in hand to combat this destructive act that’s now becoming part of our culture.
The COMELEC should find a way not to rely on the submitted election expenses from these candidates as opposed to the allowable election cost of campaign per candidate, otherwise, COMELEC will remain an enabler for allowing the use of money to determine the results of this political circus. Comes election, online vote-buying will be taken advantage of by our slick politicians because of the pandemic. And maybe the government can partner with local banks to monitor questionable huge money movements days before the election day.
Campaigning against accepting money in exchange for votes is counterproductive, for our people just simply don’t care especially those in the rural areas. The social matrix brought by this bad practice is that voters expect money every single election and stopping it now is a long shot – realistically to most is next to impossible.
Voters however can be educated and minds can still be changed. The ultimate goal of the crusade is to discourage future coterie of vote-buyers thru an aggressive province-wide educational drive – explaining to our people this bad practice’s long-term political and economic ramifications.
The emphasis of the message is simple: “ Get the money but vote based on your conscience, based more on the candidate’s integrity.” With the youth’s aggressive stance and involvement, this message if carried on with vigor collectively with other sectors may slowly awaken minds.
The success of this campaign will be a litmus test that will define future elections of the next generations.
We need to free ourselves from the quicksand of never-ending corruption for allowing ourselves to be dictated by this brazen disregard of fair election exercise.
Youth is the face of hope in our country. It will take all of us to believe that vote-buying is solvable.
The dawn of a new era is unfolding.

Sometimes it is better to lose and do the right thing than to win and do the wrong thing.

Tony Blair

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