Money talks louder than votes in Philippines’ polls

Voters rush inside as the gate opens at a polling precinct in Manila on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 14 May 2019

Money talks louder than votes in Philippines’ polls

  • President Duterte says vote buying common, offenders should be prosecuted
  • Under the Omnibus Election Code, vote buying carries a penalty of up to six years’ imprisonment and disqualification from public office

MANILA: While there has been less poll-related violence, Philippines’ elections officials said that their biggest challenge was to end large-scale vote buying in midterm elections on Monday.

However, officials including President Rodrigo Duterte admitted that the practice of vote buying has long been an integral part of Philippine elections.

More than 61 million Filipinos have registered to vote in this year’s elections where about 18,000 congressional and local posts are at stake. The amount of bribe being offered in exchange for votes has reportedly increased to P3,000 ($58), particularly in the provinces.

Interviewed by reporters after casting his vote in Davao City, Duterte said that he had not received any report on any major incident that would disturb the conduct of the elections.

“Just the ordinary, the vote buying and violence there, violence here,” he said, adding that those caught buying votes should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Under the Omnibus Election Code, vote buying carries a penalty of up to six years’ imprisonment and disqualification from public office.

Duterte, however, said that the practice “has been an integral part of an election in the Philippines” and “not one of them (candidates) does not resort to vote buying.”

“When you start to give money ... it’s not because I’m buying the vote of the fellow, it’s because I’m giving him money to go to the (polling) precinct, cast his vote, and go home ... Or you send food to your leaders who are here sacrificing and waiting for the food to eat so that they can last until the last vote is counted,” said Duterte.

Duterte added that vote buying would continue “for as long as the Philippines remains a poor country.”

PNP Chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde said they had recorded 332 incidents of vote buying with 297 violators arrested. “It’s really massive this time,” he said.

But other than that and some isolated incidents, mostly in Mindanao, the police and the military said that the elections were generally peaceful.

“Very minimal breach of peace and order was monitored and reported from all over the country. There were last-minute attempts to disrupt the conduct of the elections but these were immediately addressed by our security forces,” said the military’s public affairs officer Col. Noel Detoyato.

On the issue of vote buying, he said this could be attributed to the modernization of elections. 

“They (candidates) now have a hard time manipulating results so they resorted to widespread vote buying, which was monitored, acted upon and prevented.”

Ramon Casiple, of the Manila-based think tank the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, said that vote buying had always been part of problematic traditional politics in the country.

“Buying of votes is the more pervasive (problem) with traditional politics in the Philippines. You can say that here it’s ‘money politics’,” he told Arab News. And while it does not necessarily guarantee victory for politicians who resort to bribing the voters, it still is a big factor.

The practice persists because there is no party loyalty among politicians in the country. 

“Here it’s not a political party system,” Casiple said, adding that political families or dynasties still reign.

“Party loyalty is one of the reforms we have long been pushing. The solution to traditional politics is to make the political party system work, let it take root so that there will be rules and discipline among candidates, which we do not have at the moment,” he said. 


Myanmar troops’ sexual violence against Rohingya shows ‘genocidal intent’ — UN report

Updated 35 min 12 sec ago

Myanmar troops’ sexual violence against Rohingya shows ‘genocidal intent’ — UN report

  • Hundreds of Rohingya women and girls were raped, with 80 percent of the rapes corroborated by the Mission being gang rapes, says report
  • A military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that began in August 2017 drove more than 730,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh

UNITED NATIONS: Sexual violence committed by Myanmar troops against Rohingya women and girls in 2017 was an indication of the military’s genocidal intent to destroy the mainly Muslim ethnic minority, United Nations investigators concluded in a report released on Thursday.
The panel of independent investigators, set up by the UN Human Rights Council in 2017, accused Myanmar’s government of failing to hold anyone accountable and said it was responsible “under the Genocide Convention for its failure to investigate and punish acts of genocide.”
A military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that began in August 2017 drove more than 730,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. Myanmar denies widespread wrongdoing and says the military campaign across hundreds of villages in northern Rakhine was in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents.
“Hundreds of Rohingya women and girls were raped, with 80 percent of the rapes corroborated by the Mission being gang rapes. The Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) was responsible for 82 percent of these gang rapes,” the report said.
The Myanmar government has refused entry to the UN investigators. The investigators traveled to refugee camps in Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia, and met with aid groups, think-tanks, academics and intergovernmental organizations.
In an August 2018 report, the investigators laid out five indicators of genocidal intent by the Myanmar military: the use of derogatory language; specific comments by government officials, politicians, religious authorities and military commanders prior, during and after the violence; the existence of discriminatory plans and policies; evidence of an organized plan of destruction; and the extreme brutality of the campaign.
“The Mission now concludes on reasonable grounds that the sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls that began on 25 August 2017 was a sixth factor that indicated the Tatmadaw’s genocidal intent to destroy the Rohingya people,” the new report said.
The conclusion was based on “the widespread and systematic killing of women and girls, the systematic selection of women and girls of reproductive ages for rape, attacks on pregnant women and on babies, the mutilation and other injures to their reproductive organs, the physical branding of their bodies by bite marks on their cheeks, neck, breast and thigh.”
It said that two years later no military commanders had been held accountable for these and other crimes under international law and that the government “notoriously denies responsibility.”
“Myanmar’s top two military officials remain in their positions of power despite the Mission’s call for them to be investigated and, if appropriate, prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide,” the report said.
The investigators said they had collected new information about alleged perpetrators and added their names to a confidential list that will be shared with the UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet and another UN inquiry charged with collecting and preserving evidence for possible future trials.