Saturday, September 22, 2018

Editorial: Broken election rules

THE filing of the certificates of candidacy for the May 14 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections started last Saturday and will end on Friday, April 20. This will be followed by the nine-day campaign period from May 4 to May 12. Like in all the other elections before this, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has set guidelines, some of which are often breached.

Consider the rule that barangay and SK polls are non-partisan. Even Comelec officials know this isn’t true but they ride on the lie anyway, plugging their ears and looking away when politicians in cities, municipalities and provinces maneuver to have their party mates in the barangays win the elections.

In Cebu City, for example, the administration Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) and the opposition Barug Team Rama have never hidden the fact that they are fielding their people in the polls. In the barangays, the not so well-kept secret is who among the candidates are with BOPK and who are with Barug Team Rama. The non-partisan provision is the most violated rule but nobody is complaining.

Our election laws are clear on what constitutes cheating. But cheats among candidates abound because not many have been penalized for cheating and some candidates did win by resorting to it. This has gotten to the point that cheats who win are praised for being wily while non-cheats who lose are called stupid.

One good example is vote-buying, which has made the barangay and SK elections an expensive process. Buying votes, like being partisan in elections, has so become an accepted practice that in every elections the cost of doing it has gotten higher. People are no longer talking about buying a vote for P50 or P100; instead, P500 or P1,000 and even more has become the going price especially in the SK polls that have a smaller voting population to buy.

Everybody, from the Comelec to politicians down to the voters, knows that some of the important provisions of our election laws are mere charades but we retain them and wallow in the pretense, like the emperor in the Hans Christian Andersen tale who continued the procession even if a child had blurted out that he was wearing no clothes at all.