By Beting Laygo Dolor
MANILA – Her words echoed what the late Jaime Cardinal Sin told the Filipino electorate in the months preceding the 1986 “snap elections” that eventually led to the downfall of Ferdinand Marcos, Sr.
“Tanggapin and pera, pero sundin ang konsensya” (Take the money but follow your conscience.)
Vice president and presidential candidate Leni Robredo repeated the words at the start of this week, but clarified on Wednesday, Oct. 27, that she was by no means endorsing the age-old Philippine practice of vote-buying during elections.
Speaking in the vernacular during an online meeting with household workers, she said, “What they use to buy your votes could be the money of the people.”
Robredo added that while she was aware that vote-buying was illegal, it is next to impossible to catch candidates engaged in the activity.
Some have even gone online in enticing voters to campaign for certain candidates through direct deposits to their e-wallet apps like GCash.
She added that in the end, vote buying is a useless exercise because “money cannot equate to electoral victory.”
The Commission on Elections (Comelec), however, warned that vote-buying is still a serious offense, one that could result in the disqualification of candidates.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said it was an election offense “regardless of financial situation or noble intentions.”
Candidates whose camps have been caught distributing money in the past have reasoned that they were merely helping the poor.
Jimenez said he disagreed with the premise of Robredo that it was alright to accept money from candidates, but still follow one’s conscience when casting their vote.
While the campaign season is still months away, some presidential and vice presidential candidates have been spending heavily on print, broadcast, and electronic media to push their candidacies.
Based on his TV ads alone, the biggest spender is former senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., according to media observers.
Candidates Manny Pacquiao and Ping Lacson have also been spending on various media, as well as vice presidential bets Tito Sotto and Bong Go.
In related news, the president’s party – the Alfonso Cusi wing of PDP-Laban – appeared to have become desperate after their presidential bet Senator Ronald dela Rosa continued to perform weakly in most surveys and showed little interest in actively campaigning.
This led Cusi – who serves as Energy secretary in the Duterte Cabinet – to say that they could still go back to their original plan of fielding a Bong Go-Rodrigo Duterte tandem next year.
All they were waiting for was for the president “to change his mind” about retiring from politics, and agree to be PDP-Laban’s vice presidential bet.
The party had been trying to recruit the president’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, to run for president, but she reiterated this week that she had no plans of running for the high post, preferring to seek re-election as mayor instead.
The mayor, however, said she would support the presidential bid of Marcos after she met with him in Cebu over the weekend.
Substitution of candidates can only take place on or before November 15.