TURNING POINT: Elections, Corruption and Poverty

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NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews/21 February) – To aspire for an elective post in this country is to plunge into a very expensive enterprise. The higher the position sought the greater is the expense to incur. So much money is needed to run and, much more, to win a campaign.

In its study of the 2004 and 2007 elections, Pera’t Pulitika (PAP) came out with the following estimates of the campaign expenses for the major electoral posts in the land, namely: Presidential campaign, 2.5B to 5B pesos; senatorial campaign, P150M to P500M pesos; congressional campaign, P3M to P100M pesos; gubernatorial campaign, P5M to P150M; and mayoralty campaign, P1M to P100M.

Take note that these ground estimates transcend the campaign spending caps set by law which is P10/registered voter for presidential positions (president and vice president) and P3/registered voter for all the rest of the positions, the total amount of which may differ on the size of each constituency. In other words, with a voting population of 54M, a presidential aspirant is allowed by law to spend only P540M plus P250M from party contribution (P5/registered voter) or a total of P790M. At P3/registered voter, a senatorial aspirant is only permitted to spend P162M. When on top of the expenses for the regular campaign sorties and campaign materials is added the budget to buy votes directly and indirectly!, the investment could be staggering.

Now consider, for instance, the actual spending of the presidential aspirants of the 2010 elections as monitored by Pera’t Pulitika: Aquino P12,582,491.90; Estrada, 4,992,168.70; Teodoro, 4,424,562.80; Villar,14,284, 205.33. These figures covered only the expenses for the so-called ground wars, e.g. public meetings, campaign sorties and propaganda materials, When the expense for the air wars – TV and radio promotion is added the total spending would truly be mind-blowing.

Thus it is expected that this year’s (2016) spending will set a new gargantuan record.

Although the regulations on campaign spending are unrealistic and never strictly monitored and controlled by the COMELEC, they have been imposed supposedly to level the playing field for candidates. The fact remains, however, that the cost of running for a political position is very prohibitive. And from the look of it, only the economic elite have actually the opportunity to participate and have the biggest chance to win elective positions in government.

The political race naturally spawns fund raising activities from various sources and in different forms the dire consequences of which may subvert and frustrate the national will.

Politicians dip their fingers into sources of funds other than from their own pockets. For incumbents, funds may come from the coffers of the government through the like of the notorious fertilizer anomaly in the past and through pork barrels and over-priced and sub-standard public infra projects that materialize few months before the elections season.

Contributions to the campaign kitty may also be solicited from big business, lobbyists, gambling and drug lords, miners, and from big-time smugglers. It is also no accident that a year or so before and during elections, bank robberies, carnappings, kidnappings and other criminal fundraising activities become very pronounced in different parts of the country.

Our kind of political election evidently does not serve the purpose for which it is undertaken, that is, to produce democratic and socially responsive leaders and lawmakers to steer the sustainable development of the country. Instead, it has become the mother of all corruptions that prostitutes our morals and values. It has become a nasty business where people trade their souls for some economic incentives. Decision makings are thus compromised and governance is sacrificed in the altar of payback development.

Sadly, the citizens have lost the moral ascendancy to criticize or demand anything from the government because they are, in the first place, greatly responsible in putting the wrong people there.

So long as corruption is embedded in our electoral process, our government will remain inefficient and ineffective in the delivery of public services. Consequently, the people will remain marginalized and dehumanized. And the cycle of poverty and corruption goes on and on to eternity.

Indeed, we badly need a new system and processes in the choice of our leaders to make our democracy more rational and functional, effective and meaningful.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oiental.)

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