Elections’ weird realities

“The political process does not end on Election Day. Young people need to stay involved in the process by continuing to pay attention to the conversation and holding their leaders accountable for the decisions they make.” – Patrick Murphy

LIKE many Ilonggos who have doggedly followed the political events in Iloilo City and Western Visayas for that matter for the past 30 years, we now have an inkling of events that will unfurl in the next three to four days or several hours before and after the May 13, 2019 elections.

We noticed that the styles and methods employed by most aspirants for public office while wooing the voters didn’t have a paradigm shift; they still used the traditional and decrepit approaches, tottering to appeal to emotions.

They still pin their hopes on the strength of the much-abused “masa” or the hoi polloi; and in order to get their attention, most of them had to resort to a spellbinding and hyperbolical “I feel what you feel”; “I am one of you”, “I know what’s wrong with our society and I am here to help solve the poverty”, blah blah blah. 

The only difference was the entry of the social media. Numerous fake accounts have been expedited, many of them sardonically made their way to the mainstream, buttressing the spread of voluminous but rancid information mostly not to build but destroy the reputation of rival candidates.

Our crystal ball, which has shunned relying on implausible surveys, has started to flicker and its scientific forecast may give some prominent political personalities a hypertension, especially those who have no plan whatsoever–and probably acceptance–for possible defeat.




Meanwhile, in our many years of covering the Philippine elections as  newsmen since democracy was restored in the 1986 EDSA Revolution, here are some of the damning realities that we have learned and discovered:

  • we have one of the most expensive electoral exercises in the world; candidates and their political parties are forced or obliged to spend millions of pesos during the campaign period. These expenses include the budget for “blocktime” media programs (to promote the candidates’ “good” image and their platform of government, and to destroy their rivals), “payola” or “retainers” for village officials and leaders, media personalities and cops; campaign materials, and, let’s not be hypocrites, to buy votes; 
  • popularity alone isn’t enough to win in any contested position;
  • money–oodles upon oodles of it–remains to be the key factor, the major player, or the game changer in any neck and neck rivalry;
  • some candidates still use hyperbole and empty promises in order to attract and tantalize a horde of followers during the campaign rallies; but, unfortunately, they can’t convert the “huge” attendance into instant votes;
  • loyalty among partymates is a sham; only fools among the candidates in one political party believe that they will help pull each other up when push comes to shove, through thick and thin, from start to end. The truth is, weeks or days before the election day, some candidates already adopt a “kanya kanya” system or “mansig salbaranay na ta” (save your own ass and I’ll save mine) system;
  • treachery occurs in the eleventh hour. There are horse-trading, changing and dropping, party line crossing and swapping, solo flight, Judas handshakes and kisses, devil’s pact, and even cheating (the act of refusing to spend the party money intended for the poll watchers and leaders and for the “buying of votes”, and keeping it surreptitiously so that when the candidate loses in the elections, his pocket “wins”);
  • some members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)–both the officials and their underlings–engage in political partisanship and allow their sworn duties and obligations to maintain peace and order and neutrality to be compromised by the glitter of money. Sacks of cash intended to buy votes slip through the checkpoints manned by corrupt men in uniform;
  • Some teachers assigned to facilitate the elections and poll officials are in cahoots with candidates who wilfully and intentionally cheat regardless of their standing in the surveys;
  • some barangay leaders pocket the money set aside to buy votes. These leaders collect all the lists containing the names of all voting family members in exchange of P500 to P1,000 cash for each name on the list, but some families don’t receive their money. There are cases when five members of one voting family promised with P500 each or P2,500 for the entire family, get only P200 each or P1,000 for the whole family. Even in vote-buying, fraud and cheating are rampant during the elections.
  • “winning” candidates or those who have consistently topped the surveys who lose because they don’t engage in the “dirty” vote-buying or they don’t believe in the magnificence and power of money during the elections, are the first to make a noise the morning after that they are victims of a “massive fraud” and that they lost “because our opponent or opponents engaged in vote buying.”

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)