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Crocodile, Cobra, or a Mad Dog?

Fr. Carmelo O. Diola, SSL

Spaces of Hope

 

DILAAB’S i Vote Good (iVG) campaign team in Cebu recently updated their media partners on campaign activities and what they learned from these experiences. We also presented campaign collaterals for social media and traditional media in English, Cebuano, and Tagalog.

 

Earlier, one participant had said in jest, “I envy those who are in the provinces since they will be receiving Php 500.00-P1,000.00 whereas in my 55 years of existence, I have only received Php 100.00. He continued, “Reducing vote-buying is everybody’s desire but even those who desire it eventually sell their votes.”

Years of disappointment were etched on his cynical-looking face.

 

Dilaab did a house-to-house campaign called iVG during the 2013 elections. This out-of-the-box effort was spurred on by a comment by a politician: “During elections the Church only reaches out to church-goers. The Church loses the war during elections since we are not in the battlefield. We need to campaign on the ground just as politicians do.” We have been preaching to the choir.

 

We did campaign, not for candidates but for Christian values. The campaign is non-partisan, aiming to reduce vote-buying at the grassroots level by forming the social consciences of voters. The campaign has to do with three Cs: 1) Choices: to enable voters to exercise their free will and informed consciences so to reduce the misuse of our “utang na loob” culture in vote buying; 2) Complementarity: to ensure that the votes guarded by church volunteers are not votes that have already been bought; and 3) Christian: to help voters rediscover their human dignity and Christian values so to have the moral courage to say “no” to vote-buying.

 

We point out, without being preachy, that vote-buying is ultimately irrational, self-destructive, and degrading and that we can change our nation starting with the way we vote.

 

***

 The way we conduct our elections (“Pera Politics”) is the original sin of graft and corruption. This is due to certain mindsets and behavioral patterns during elections. Many candidates run to win at all cost. Since expenses soar sky high due to vote-buying, they look at elections as an investment and public service as a business venture. When “payback” time comes, the common good suffers.

 

On the other hand, many voters sell their votes and they rationalize this in many ways. They often succumb to the “lesser-evil” syndrome, wrongly thinking that choosing the lesser evil is a teaching of the Church. Choosing the lesser evil still leads to evil. In addition, voters have a “gambling mentality” as they vote candidates whom they think would win, bypassing any discernment process. In the end, they are the losers.

 

There are many ways to justify vote-buying. Voters blame candidates for offering money. Candidates blame voters for expecting money. Vote-buying is not really evil since it is a “pahalipay” (“meant to share joy”). Just take the money, but vote according to your conscience.

 

A closer look at each of these reveal their blind spots. Voting according to one’s conscience while receiving money is an illusion. If it is meant to be a deterrent, vote-buying would have gone down a long time ago. It has not. Instead it has become more widespread and sophisticated.

 

Our slogan: “Tulo ka adlawng kalipay, tulo ka tuig nga pagmahay” (roughly, “three days of fun, three years of misery”) captures the evils of vote buying. We point out that this leads to three consequences, on top of additional unnecessary expenses for candidates. Receiving Php 1,000.00 for a three-year position means selling oneself for 90 centavos a day (or 45 centavos for a six-year position). Human dignity does not have a price.

 

In addition, those who sell their votes can no longer demand good governance since they have already received their “share.” Finally, peace and order suffer if the “investors” of the winning candidate who bought votes are drug lords or other illegal businessmen.

 

***

 Campaigning at the grassroots level has been very meaningful and is a lesson in communication. A case in point is “lesser evil.” The expression still sounds abstract. To drive home our point, we present the LASER test—lifestyle, accomplishments, supporters, election conduct, and reputation—which is a framework for a decision-making process for choosing candidates. Ideally, the choice ought to be between someone who is good, someone who is better, or someone who is the best choice.

 

If, after due diligence of asking questions, suspending one’s judgment, researching, engaging in objective and dispassionate discussions, weighing the evidence, etc., the LASER still yields candidates who do not make the grade, then certain positions ought to remain unshaded in the ballot. Archbishop Soc Villegas recently wrote that “not voting for a particular position when there is no one fitted for it is also a valid Christian political choice. Voting for the ‘lesser evil’ is still voting for evil” (Being Eucharistic in Life and Deeds, January 31, 2016).

 

To illustrate lesser evil, we ask our audience—in colorful vernacular—whether they prefer to be bitten by a crocodile, or by a cobra, or a mad dog. Laughter shows that we had made our point.

 

At the end of our update, the media man who had initially expressed his cynicism approached our team. “May I wear this?” he asked as he picked up a t-shirt with i Vote Good messaging. Then he asked for a tarpaulin with a similar message. “I want to display this in my house in the province since we are close to a school that will be used as a polling center.”

 

His face now exuded hope.

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