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
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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. 


Trump sets $8bn-plus in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE

Updated 26 May 2019
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Trump sets $8bn-plus in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE

  • Pompeo says US partners in Mideast need contracts to be completed to help deter Iran
  • Trump’s administration also announced that it was sending 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump, declaring a national emergency because of tensions with Iran, has swept aside objections from Congress to complete the sale of over $8 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan.

The Trump administration informed congressional committees that it will go ahead with 22 military sales to the Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan, infuriating lawmakers by circumventing a long-standing precedent for congressional review of major weapons sales.

Members of Congress had been blocking sales of offensive military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for months.

Several of Trump’s fellow Republicans, as well as Democrats, said they would object to such a plan, fearing that blowing through the “holds” process would eliminate Congress’ ability to check not just Trump but future presidents from selling weapons where they liked.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that US partners in the Middle East needed the contracts to be completed to help deter Iran, and that the decision to circumvent Congress was meant to be a “one-time event.”

In documents sent to Congress, Pompeo listed a wide range of products and services that would be provided to the countries. These include Raytheon precision-guided munitions (PGMs), support for Boeing Co. F-15 aircraft, and Javelin anti-tank missiles, which are made by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin Corp. 

Iranian malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to American security at home and abroad. Mike Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Other companies that will benefit include General Electric, now cleared to sell engines for use in F-16 fighter jets operated by the UAE, and the US unit of French firm Thales, which was cleared to sell a fuzing system for Paveway IV precision-guided bombs to Britain and the UAE.

It will also likely be welcome news for Britain’s BAE Systems Plc and Europe’s Airbus, clearing the way for installation of Paveway laser-guided bombs on European-built Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jets sold to Saudi Arabia, as well F-15 fighters built by Boeing.

In his memorandum justifying the emergency declaration, Pompeo listed years of actions by Iran. “Iranian malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to American security at home and abroad,” he wrote and cited “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Tehran.

Trump’s administration also announced that it was sending 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East, which it described as an effort to bolster defenses against Iran over what it sees as a threat of potential attack.

Members of Congress from both parties have worried that Trump is pushing toward war with Iran. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, said the administration was responding to important needs from partners.

“This is about deterrence and it’s not about war,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview.