Buy and sell | Philstar.com
It’s nice to hear the Electoral Commission say that technology and social media will be used to crack down on vote buying and selling. Comelec officials say actions recorded on cellphones may constitute evidence warranting an investigation by the polling body.
I’ve heard this from Comelec, however, in previous elections since cellphone use became ubiquitous. I don’t recall any significant cases that led to the punishment of vote buyers and vote sellers.
That’s the next question after Comelec assured the public it would act on vote-buying reports: If a violation is established, will the culprits be punished?
If Comelec also says yes, the next question is how far the responsibility will go. Should the candidate supported by the offender be held responsible?
Like drug dealers who put a safe distance between themselves and their hot merchandise, candidates who deliberately set out to buy votes surely know enough to have layers of denial in the operation. The bagmen are designated to directly manage the distribution of the money.
There are cases where local political leaders or wealthy supporters, seeking to ingratiate themselves with the standard-bearer, take it upon themselves – truly unbeknownst to the candidate – to offer money, t-shirts and other gifts to gather a large crowd for a campaign rally.
But buying votes involves large sums of money, and they’re usually taken from the flag carrier’s campaign war chest. It is therefore more likely that the candidates cannot be completely clueless if their supporters commit to buying votes.
Can Comelec hold the candidate responsible for electoral offenses committed by supporters of the bet? And if a link to the contestant is established, shouldn’t the bet be disqualified from the race?
The typical reaction to such a scenario by candidates in this country is, in your dreams. Especially if the candidate wins.
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The idea of vox populi, vox Dei in our dysfunctional democracy has come to mean tolerance of a victor’s transgressions, whether legal or moral. Elections in our weak republic are often just validations of government dishonesty and greed.
The situation validates the advice of the English scholar Alcuin to the Emperor Charlemagne in the 8th century to resist the idea of vox populi, vox Dei because “the rioting of the mob is always very close to madness”.
The vox populi is invoked by the entrenched clans to defend the building of the dynasty: they argue that disgruntled voters can always end the dynasty by voting for the resignation of the clan.
Several jueteng lords, smugglers, drug dealers and all manner of thieves managed to launder their ill-gotten gains in politics. Once elected, their offenses are expunged or, worse, the criminal activities continue and even grow exponentially.
If there is strong evidence that a candidate’s supporters have engaged in vote buying, will Comelec also prosecute the candidate and impose a sanction?
The Anti-Money Laundering Council is also taking action to prevent vote buying through digital banking apps and mobile wallets. The pandemic has created a boom in digital financial transactions. Besides vote buying, the AMLC also wants to prevent the laundering of dirty money for election campaigns.
Last month, the AMLC told banks and financial institutions to watch out for certain types of transactions that could indicate vote buying and money laundering. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas had issued a similar directive to the banking community.
People have an idea of how votes are bought and sold through direct cash payments. In digital vote buying, the AMLC has identified activities that should raise red flags.
These include large transactions over a short period of time, especially those that are “unusual” or inconsistent with a client’s financial profile, transactions, or day-to-day activities.
Suspicious transactions include large “unwarranted” cash deposits and withdrawals as well as structured cash deposits and money transfers.
Multiple accounts used by one person and the use of multiple money-services businesses to send funds are also red flags, according to the AMLC.
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Under the omnibus election code, buying and selling votes can result in imprisonment for one to six years, disqualification from public office and disqualification of the offender from voting.
It remains to be seen whether banks and finance institutions will comply with the requirement to perform due diligence on their customers and file suspicious transaction reports. Some of the funding sources could be among the bank’s largest customers. Some may even own the bank, with some family members being in politics themselves.
Can the AMLC sue such vote-buyers? Can Comelec?
Yesterday, Comelec signed an agreement with the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government and the Ministry of Social Welfare and Development to strengthen measures isolating social protection programs from politics.
This means that the three agencies want credit grab or epal applicants to keep their paws off government assistance programs, 4Ps or conditional cash transfers and government-funded assistance programs. Similar condition.
Let’s see what happens when the aid is distributed in the presence of President Duterte himself, who intends to join the campaign exits of the candidates of his PDP-Laban wing starting this Thursday.
Skeptics say the anti-epal initiative, while laudable, may suffer the fate of efforts to clamp down on vote buying and selling, bogged down in avowed good intentions.
Well, maybe we can take comfort in the idea that it’s the thought that counts.