A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user. –Theodore Roosevelt
MOST candidates in the Philippine elections share the hypocrisy of condemning the vote buying as evil, but, which they actually also practice at the same time.
No candidate for a higher elective office will admit he or she is in cahoots with barangay officials (mostly the corrupt punong barangay and council members) when they buy votes done mostly on the eve before election day, or they will be disqualified if not go to jail for gross violation of fundamental election laws.
For several years now, however, Philippine elections–national and local–have been mostly decided by the amount of cash a voter will get in exchange for his precious vote.
The tacit market value, according to sources, now ranges from P500 to P1,000 per vote.
If there are five voters in one family, thats a cool P5,000, enough to feed five stomachs for a week in a modest household.
Times have changed and the methods being employed by corrupt candidates to hijack a fair and honest election have changed as well.
The gnawing reality is that candidates who won in surveys but dont have enough wads of bills to be distributed during the crucial hours prior to the opening of voting centers will mostly likely find themselves in the tail end.
Being whipped in the surveys cant be considered an end of the world for certain candidates as long as they have substantial financial preparations which is very crucial in the homestretch.
Even some candidates with name-recall edge now arent confident enough of bagging a sure win unless they prepare a certain amount to pay corrupt voters.
This aberration in the Philippines electoral system had been passed on or has been a common practice for most candidates from one administration to another since the Marcos years.
The first known and the most scandalous massive vote-buying in the Philippine election history occurred during the 1986 presidential snap elections.
Even fake P100 bills were used by administration minions to ensure that the strongman was retained in power only to be kicked out by a bloodless revolution shortly after being declared as the winner by a jukebox election commission.
Since then, the general electoral exercises were never the same again: the moneyed, or those with gargantuan wherewithal–political parties and individual candidates for major positions–would always dominate the elections thereafter.
The United Nations has spoken: Crimes against journalists and other media workers must not be tolerated.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that harassment and attacks are again on the rise even as he expressed alarm recently to the Human Rights Council there is a shrinking civic space in every region of the globe and every corner of the internet.
Guterres disclosed: Activists and journalists are being targeted by surveillance, misinformation campaigns and threats of violence that too often result in actual violence. We must do more to defend defenders and end reprisals against those who share their human rights stories and we must hold accountable those who commit such acts.
Over a thousand human rights defenders and journalists were killed in the last three years, according to the secretary-general.
Respect for human rights is just a game of words if there is no respect for people, he added.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR) has also called for an independent and thorough review of all charges against Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa and other media professionals in the Philippines.
Rupert Colville, spokesman for UNCHR chief Michelle Bachelet, urged the Philippine judiciary to safeguard their own independence by throwing out cases that are clearly politically motivated or are not in line with international human rights standards, including freedom of opinion and expression.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)