Sunday, February 28, 2010

Money in the Time of Elections

A candidate who fails to see what’s wrong with handing out money during election season only shows that he has limited understanding of the concept of traditional politics and its ill effects. Worse than the cunning and calculating traditional politician is the naïve and innocently ignorant traditional politician because he is perpetuating the scourge of Philippine political culture and public service without him realizing it.

That kind of tradpol (or trapo, in Philippine political lingo) is personally beyond reform because he thinks he is doing the country a great service although he is unwittingly perpetuating patronage politics. He will always think what he is doing is noble and will only look at those who have an opposing view as detractors to his cause. But for him not to realize the ill effects of his charity, there must be really something wrong with his values orientation and judgment.

What exactly is wrong with giving away money in the time of elections?

Well, it really smacks of vote-buying. During the time of elections, a candidate is only expected to spend money on the production of campaign collaterals, payment of hired personnel, campaign operations and other services. To simply hand over cash to anyone in exchange for nothing, whether voter or non-voter, young or old, male or female, it only serves one purpose—to get votes.

Handing over cash to a child in the time of elections, even if the child cannot vote, only serves to solicit votes for the candidate handing over the cash. Especially if the cash is handed in full view of the public, and even played up in media because during political campaigns, each action of a candidate which is done in public is assumed as a means of attracting votes.

The child who was given money most probably had parents or guardians. Most likely they are voters. And it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the money handed over to the child is indirectly an appeal to the parents or guardians of the child to support the candidate giving the money.

In such a scenario, the appeal goes out not just to the parents or guardians of the child, but also to the observers of the whole event. The message to those who witness such charity is “look at me, I’m so caring I’m giving away money. So vote for me”.

Under normal circumstances, such actions may be considered charity. But during elections, it should be seen as nothing other than vote buying. The circumstances make it so. It might be said that it would be unfair to make that conclusion because the candidate may just be sincere in wanting help, but the circumstances call for better judgment on the part of the candidate giving the money away.

If the candidate had the right sense of values and principles, he would realize by himself that giving money away during elections will only be seen as a political gimmick and perpetuate a practice long identified with the trapo.

A candidate with better judgment, sound discretion and creativity would be able to think of ways to extend help without resorting to giving away money. For example, if a child is hungry, the candidate can buy food and hand it over to the child. There is a world of difference between handing money over to a child and giving the child food to satisfy his hunger, especially during the election season.

To a child, when he receives money from a candidate during campaign season (which they undoubtedly know owing to the streamers, stickers and smiling faces of candidates), he learns that a “good candidate” is a candidate who hands out money. At an early age, their young minds are already being corrupted by practices of traditional politics. What kind of voters will they turn out to be when they grow old?

Having been a candidate myself four times now, I get frustrated and disgusted at voters who return my handshake with the words “wala bang naka ipit na isang daan dyan?” These are the kinds of voters that the young children who were given money by a candidate turn out to be.

A candidate’s failure to discern this effect of this “political charity” says something about his own character and values. It reveals his principles and his views on what the guiding force in the process of selecting the country’s leaders is ---“pera pera lang yan”.

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