We need to wake up to the realities of vote buying

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In another statement that will undoubtedly be fodder for trolls, Vice President Leni Robredo recently advised voters to accept bribes from candidates, reasoning that these are taxpayers’ money anyway.

However, Robredo added that people should still vote based on their conscience.

‘Mali ang pagbibili ng boto’, acknowledged Robredo during an online forum. ‘Pero ang sinasabi ko sa tao, tanggapin niyo. Tanggapin niyo kasi galing din naman iyan sa atin. Yung pinambibili ng boto, pera din yan ng taumbayan’.

Pero ang iboboto mo kung sino ang nasa konsensiya mo. Huwag kang boboto kasi pakiramdam mo meron kang utang na loob kasi tinanggap mo’, adding that the practice is rampant based on her experience when she last ran for Congress.

Robredo’s statement is morally grey, where a fault is acknowledged, but not outright dismissed. It’s not the simplistic black-and-white answer that the Internet prefers, where bad equals bad and good equals good.

As such, a good chunk finds Robredo’s answer unfavorable, including Commission on Elections (COMELEC) spokesperson James Jimenez. In a tweet, Jimenez disagreed, saying that vote-buying is wrong, ‘regardless of financial situation or noble intentions’.

‘Di dapat ginagawa, at di dapat sina-suggest yan sa mga botante’, writes Jimenez.

The reality

Ideally, Jimenez and his sentiment should be the norm. Vote-buying shouldn’t exist. There shouldn’t be corruption. Injustices shouldn’t happen. In Wonderland, all of these are true. But the average Filipino is not Alice falling through a rabbit hole.

Do you know what IS real? That people go hungry. 4.2 million families experienced hunger in May 2021, according to a survey, as the pandemic rendered many jobless. There’s a reason why community pantries were such a hit. Some households live on PHP 25,000 a month, far below the recommended PHP 42,000 to live above the poverty line.

Vote-buying is wrong, yes, but not everyone has the privilege to refuse. Are we asking the masses to set aside what are essentially hand-outs, for the sake of being on the ‘right’ side?

The poor do not need holier-than-thou posturing. They need something to eat.

And unless the COMELEC grows some teeth and jails violators (aka the donating party), or the minimum wage catches up to modern times, then the needy will be forced to entertain answers to their problems, bribes included.

vote buying, <b> We need to wake up to the realities of vote buying </b>
Philstar

Acknowledging the flaws

Robredo’s answer sends a message: there is a time to be an idealist and a realist. It recognizes that the decades-long practice is wrong, understands why people act the way they do, and presents a practical solution to the dilemma.

That is, that people can both accept the money for their sake and not allow the bribe to dictate who they will vote for.

We don’t need another leader who promises utopia. Not another ‘I will get rid of drugs and criminality in 3-6 months’ or ‘I will dismantle the oligarchy’. As the past six years have taught us, fixing the Philippines isn’t that black and white.

It’s going to take a lot of compromises, self-awareness, while trying to stick to the ideal morals as best we can.

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