Monday, May 17, 2010

The Most Expensive Election Ever

The May 2010 elections will probably go down as the most expensive election in Iloilo City history. Almost everyone I know in Iloilo City received something (from as low as P200 to as high as P1,500), with some accepting money from two or more candidates (a practice termed locally as “double cropping”). Even the Ilonggo middle-class, which traditionally frowns on such vote-buying practices, eagerly grabbed the chance to make a few fast bucks (although the middle-class prefers to have their money delivered to them in their gated subdivisions ala “door-to-door,” unlike their poorer cousins). The very few persons I know who did not get any money did so more because of personal choice – they refused to accept the money offered to them – but the fact that they were offered money is an indication of the rampant and pervasive vote-buying that occurred during the recently-concluded elections.

It is said that the Gonzalezes spent around P200 million while Treñas and Mabilog reportedly spent P200 million and P100 million respectively during the elections. Summed up, it amounts to a mind-boggling P500 million! 500 million pesos – this is more or less the total amount of money which circulated in Iloilo City during the last elections. This is probably the reason why SM City and Robinsons mall are so full of people these past few days. People are buying groceries or shopping for clothes or upgrading their cellphones, and I notice that the neighbourhood tambays are drinking beer instead of their usual whiskey or gin.

In previous elections, people were happy to receive 200 pesos. Today, voters feel “insulted” if they receive P200 pesos. This is because the average “going-rate” for a vote is P500 to P1,000 even, and the ward leader who distributes a smaller amount is automatically suspected of pocketing campaign funds by his people.

Needless to say, this development is very disturbing for me because now elections will be decided on how large a candidates’s campaign kitty is and not based on his credentials and achievements. Money blurs our people’s vision and it affects their judgement. I mean, it was quite obvious that among the three candidates for mayor (Gonzalez, Jamora and Mabilog) it is Jed who is the least-qualified and least-prepared to tackle the problems of our city. Among the candidates for congressman (Gonzalez, Malabor and Treñas), I believe it was Jun Gonzalez who is the most qualified candidate because he would have entered Congress as a senior legislator and would have carried with him the clout inherent to a third-termer lawmaker.

The bitter lesson for all politicians is this: people do not reward good performance. That is why I would not be surprised if Treñas (should he be elected Congressman) would discontinue the Free Medical Referral program instituted by the Gonzalezes. For years Congressman Gonzalez has been helping countless poor people thru this free hospitalization program and look what it got him: nada. On election day, voters remember not the service but only the money. I have always thought that Iloilo City voters are different and more politically sophisticated than their cousins in the interior towns (where vote-buying has long been institutionalized). I guess I was wrong.

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