A lamentable system

I WROTE this column last Sunday when the votes had not yet been cast. By now we know the winners and the losers who are usually aggrieved because they were cheated or they did not have enough money to match the amount offered by the other side.

We had always called for clean, honest and peaceful elections, but the nation has not come out of political dirtiness that is shameful and makes a sham of our claim of being a democracy. We have yet to have an election were there was peace, honesty and cleanliness in the process. The losers always justify their defeat due to cheating.

In fact, before the elections the Comelec and groups in Manila publicly washed our dirty election linens before the world with announcements that the PNP and civic groups have launched an operation against vote buying. That move tells the world that vote buying is a national malaise.

This places under question the credibility of the electoral process. Were the winners elected on merits or the money dished out to buy the votes?

We have come to the point that the ability of candidates to win is measured in the amount of money they could dispense during the elections. Shameful, but a reality that places a question mark on the honor of the winner.  

There were reports of vote buying in every corner of this country, plenty in some, small and few in others. We know this; it is a given, an expected normal but this year it was described as massive.

The practice has become so rampant that they are done even in broad daylight with the vote sellers lining up. Money bills are stapled on the sample ballots. The mechanism has been perfected by the operators of vote buying to insure the sellers got it right. The presence of party inspectors in the precincts insures compliance.

If we want to eliminate vote buying, we should begin by banning the party watchers from the precincts. Their reason for being there no longer exists because of the automated counter and the easy means in finding one’s precincts. These watchers are spies for the vote buyers.

We do not need to belabor this subject that is well-known. What we also know is that only a few are really concerned about this practice because everybody does it. Of course, media and the Church had been asking people not to sell their votes and politicians pledge not to buy. But the practice remains because the electoral system is defective and politicians do not want to change it. It works for them, expensive perhaps, but it works and there is money to spend.

Despite the use of automatic counting machines, cheating is rampant. There had been talks of the codes being sold and bought but like vote buying, tampering is difficult to prove. The fact that until now the Senate Electoral Tribunal is still counting the votes for the vice president in the 2016 elections shows that the machines are not truly being trusted. But they are the best we have.

Automatic counting machines are fine; it is our electoral system that is defective, the fruit of lack of morality in public life. Truly, it is said that if we put a good man in a bad system, he will eventually get infected and become bad. If we put a bad man in a good system, he will ultimately become good.

Presently we are trapped in a bad system so that even good people who become politicians are infected with the disease because their virtues are weak. They are swallowed up by their environment and lacking in backbone to resist the evil around them, they find the unhealthy situation acceptable, if not finally becoming part of it or embracing and loving the evil.

Yesterday I cited the case of Christine Nogueira do Reis Tonietto, a 27-year-old lawyer who was elected a deputy of Brazil’s lower Chamber of Deputies, equivalent to our House of Representatives. What is exemplary in her platform of government is her pledge to bring into the public square the virtues that are inherent in her being a Catholic.

We are a Christian nation; even Islam teaches virtues of honesty. That most of our politicians are dishonest is lamentable and speaks ill about the electorate and their kind of leaders.