The report cited two Muslim cultural traits abetting vote-buying:
1. Local chiefs order ballots to be filled out in behalf of entire villages for political kingpins with the highest offer.
2. Voters are too scared to protest, too clannish to question their elders, or just too detached from the government to feel violated as citizens.
These cultural traits are true. And it’s also true that these are exploited “using poll-rigging machinations devised by the Christian North”. Who are the exploiters? It’s obvious: the “local chiefs” and the “political kingpins”.
How does the exploitation happen? “Any financier of vote-buying … cuts deals primarily with the leaders of the dominant clan … (which) extends to the mayors, the local police, the election inspectors and the canvassers.” Clan leaders set the price per vote.
This is a fact. It may explain but it does not justify.
Wrong to Say
Retired Election Commissioner Mehol Sadain elucidated:
1. Election-rigging schemes are mainly plotted in Manila and carried out by “operators” who only flock to Mindanao during election seasons.
Sadain only authenticated the well known. For sure, TU candidates and Malacañang plotted the 12-0 sweep in Maguindanao. How much did they offer Maguindanao leaders? We can’t tell exactly. But it must be a multi-million-peso deal. There must be similar deals in Lanao and Sulu from both the administration and opposition candidates.
2. But it is wrong to say outright that cheating is done by Muslims; it’s the operators from the Christian North who exploit the people’s ignorance, complacency and apathy.
Sadain was mentally dishonest. Who said that it was the Muslims – the masses – who were cheating? They were innocent. It was their leaders who did – who sold their followers’ votes to the highest bidder. Vote-buying operators dealt with Muslim leaders, never with the Muslim masses.
Sadain cited political and historically-bred attitudes of Muslims which their leaders exploited:
1. The people still do not have a real appreciation of the right of suffrage under a Western-model constitution.
2 They have that element of distrust that can be traced back to the fierce Moro resistance against Spanish and American colonizers who employed native Christian troops against the Muslims.
These explain why the Moro people prefer to choose their leaders through “lineage” not by “democratic exercises like election”.
“They just would not care, and for them voting is something mechanical that they have to do. And it’s their lack of interest that makes it possible for the leaders and operators to substitute “their votes”, the reported quoted Sadain.
The Muslims did not care about voting, so their leaders did the voting in exchange for multi-million-peso deals with vote-buying “operators” from the “Christian North”. That Mr. Sadain was saying.
Did the Muslims really not care to vote? Even if they really did not, was it not right to say that their leaders cheated? Were the leaders justified in doing the voting for them for a huge price? But the reports said otherwise – many Muslims who wanted to vote were deprived of their rights.
Taja Basman, president of the Philippine Islamic ‘Center for Moderate Muslims and of the Mindanao Research Institute, attributed vote-buying to the “extreme poverty” that forced Muslims to accept money in exchange for their votes. For P1,000, the parents registered as voters their children as young as 12 or 13. He also blamed the lack of infrastructure – meaning roads – in remote areas for the inability of the Comelec to control elections.
Cheating was admitted. But this was blamed on the vote-buying operators from the “Christian North”. Not on the Muslims — never on the Muslim leaders with whom the operators “cut deals”.
The Western-modeled Philippine Constitution was blamed for the “lack of appreciation” among the Muslims of their “right of suffrage”. Distrust – presumably of the government and the electoral system – was blamed on Spanish and American colonization and Christian Filipinos. Poverty and poor roads were also blamed for vote-buying.
These justified the Muslim leaders in doing the voting for their disinterested followers. This restated the justification by the apologists of Maguindanao leaders that the Muslims, according to Islam and shura, have entrusted their votes to their leaders.
The evident cheating behind the 12-0 TU sweep in Maguindanao was ultimately blamed on vote-buying operators from the “Christian North” and on the Muslim cultural, social and political traits. For their part, the leaders were justified in the ways of Islam.
The blame has been deflected from the blameworthy. The critics were wrong in judging Muslim leaders in the light of their prejudice and bias based on their Western values and concept of governance.
*** *** ***
For reflection and for whatever relevance it has to the election controversy in Mindanao, may I quote from The Shura Principle in Islam, by Sadek Jawad Sulaiman, a progressive Muslim scholar.
After summarizing the basic stipulations of shura, Sulaiman said:
“These are authentic Islamic positions, stressing popular consent, collective deliberation, shared responsibility, personal freedom, justice, equality, and dignity of the human individual, all conceived within the shura framework of governance.”