BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/19 April)— Church and socio-civic groups here have vowed to intensify their campaign against vote buying after a survey found that 80 percent of the respondents are willing to sell their votes.
Lawyer Josefe Sorrera-Ty, director of the policy center of the Father Saturnino Urios University (FSUUPC), said the survey, involving 1,833 respondents, was conducted on April 1-7. Of the total respondents, 1,466 believed that vote buying “is acceptable.”
“The respondents were asked if they will receive money from somebody in exchange of their votes for the upcoming May 2013 elections, and 8 out of 10 said yes,” she said.
Also citing the survey, Ty added that seven out of the 10 respondents believe that “other voters will also do the same.”
Alarmed by the outcome of the survey, Dr. Mary Joy Miller, head of the research team, stressed that the result indicates a much bigger problem with how the people perceive vote buying.
“This suggests that the people here perceive vote buying as an acceptable trend during elections,” she said.
Miller said what was also very alarming was the fact that the youth group aging from 18 to 30 would exchange their votes for money.
“This is really a huge challenge to all of us, not only in the academe and the church but all of us. I still believe that there is still time, if we could just do something to lower those very sad statistics,” she said.
Because of the survey, Ty said they will double their efforts to educate the voters that votes should not be sold and that choosing the candidates must be based on their conscience.
Rev. Fr. Chito Butardo, FSUU vice president, stressed the need to push the voters’ education campaign not just in the academe and in the churches but also to the general public.
“Values formation, of course, is always a great challenge in the many structures of our society such as family, community, church, and all the other sectors in the society…In this situation, there is a breakdown in these structures at many levels,” said Butardo.
“It [values formation] can never be done overnight. We cannot just be punitive, but rather take the long process of educating the people. I believe that there are still many people who still hold on to the integrity of their votes and can never be bought,” he said.
Rev. Fr. Felicito Cepeda Jr., parochial vicar of Sto. Nino Shrine in Barangay Libertad, said the culture of vote-buying in Butuan had been in place since the 1960’s.
“This culture of vote buying has long been used here in Butuan since the golden years of logging in the 60s. Back then, they would persuade you with several kilos of rice and cans of sardines in exchange for your vote. This concept had been left unchecked and passed from one generation to the next,” he said.
Cepeda also stressed the problem is “deeply rooted in family values.”
“The church, schools and even the media had never failed to promote and remind the people about responsible voting. But all of these will be useless if within the home itself, family members had shown their children that receiving money for their votes during election is acceptable,” the priest said.
Jody Navarra, a civil society activist in Butuan City, claimed that family members have been used in past elections in the distribution of money to buy votes.
Most of the time, heads of families were the ones who bring the names of the family members to political groups to sell their votes, he said.
Navarra said he had witnessed the trend of vote buying in the city since the 1950s, blaming such practice also to poor family values.
“The culture of fraud through vote buying had been passed down from grandparents to their grandchildren. And because of the hard times and frustrations from the political and electoral system, the younger generation would accept and take the money and earn from it,” he said. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)