MANILA – Taking money from unscrupulous politicians, but voting according to your conscience—an idea voiced out by Vice President Leni Robredo when asked about vote buying in an online forum—may work for some but not for others, a scholar said Thursday.
Cesi Cruz, an assistant professor at the University of California in Los Angeles, noted that not voting for a politician who gave people money may work on an individual level, but not for large groups.
“I think it works for the individual voter, it actually--I think, I don’t know how others feel about this, but my feeling is that it’s super awkward to just have to say no, to decline money, if someone’s offering you money, and for [a] vote, and or somebody offering you a campaign t-shirt, right?”
“It’s almost better to just take it and not wear it or but it’s almost impolite I think for us Filipinos, and so I do, when I do advice people I also say the same thing: take the money and vote your conscience. That at least mitigate the bad parts and bad choices that might come out of that,” she said.
“Now, I say this but with that big caveat that it’s only in cases where you don’t have to worry about things like coercion, or violence after the election, because we have to understand that not everybody can implement that kind of strategy safely.”
“Like if you’re afraid that, let’s say all of you in a barangay you all decide to vote [according to] your conscience, but if the politician knew that he bought the votes of everybody there, after the elections, you know he can come back maybe and retaliate, or you know, we’ve seen that happen where politicians will do things like remove water pumps, or come send their private armies around to intimidate voters.”
“So at the individual [level] it’s a strategy that works well, but at the group level, you know the bigger these groups get, then it’s actually hard to do a strategy like that,” she said.
Cruz in 2018 published a study based on surveys conducted immediately after the 2010 elections in Isabela.
Aside from finding out that those belonging to large social circles tend to be easier targets of vote buying, she also learned that some voters fear reprisal for the choices they make at the polls.
“That’s one of the big concerns I have and why I think it’s not just a matter of telling voters, ‘oh you know it’s not a big deal, accept the money and you can vote for whoever you want,’” she said.
“Because that works in some places, but in Isabela for example, and some places in other provinces we’ve seen politicians, even sometimes jokingly you know, oh they’ll say, o hindi mo naman ako binoto, or you didn’t vote for me, and those types of things, where even if not said in a threatening manner, I think people can be very fearful of those types of interactions, especially since for most Filipinos our mayor or our local politicians, those are the people we go to for help.”
“And so the idea that if you’re afraid that you cannot approach the mayor, if you do not vote for the mayor, then that’s very big reprisal already,” she said.
Cruz also noted that in her work, she has heard about citizens being denied access to government service, allegedly because of how they voted.
“We’ve also seen the opposite extremes as well in my work, where people have reported being intimidated, or being denied services or being denied access to government benefits and government processes just as a result of how they voted, and for that I think that’s the really crucial piece that we sometimes don’t see when we’re studying this topic,” she said.
“It’s much better for us to try to think of broader, more holistic ways of reducing vote-buying,” Cruz added.
Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez has reiterated that vote-buying is an election offense, following Robredo’s controversial statement.
Robredo has also clarified her statement since, saying she does not condone vote-buying, but added that she wants to seek awareness on the apparent lack of enforcement of election laws and rules against it.
--ANC, 28 October 2021