(Editor's note: Vote-buying is an 'accepted practice' to win an election, as noted by the author.)
In one city in northern Mindanao a Catholic university conducted a second opinion survey of voters on March 7-15. The result is not encouraging/favorable to our political culture: The survey showed seven of 10 voters are expecting money for their votes. The 2010 survey disclosed that a majority of local voters expected to receive money. There's no such survey in NCR, Central Luzon, and the big provinces south of Manila.
The same trend nationwide
If the result in one region in northern Mindanao is also the same in most provinces in Mindanao it can tell the same story nationwide for one obvious reason: Mindanao's population is a melting pot of migrants speaking Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilonggo, and other major dialects in the country.
Start of campaign
Campaigning by local candidates in most small provinces and towns started long before Palm Sunday, but partisans don't report violations like house-to-house visits, radio messages, small speeches at coffee shops, and public markets. In a small town, politicians tend to remind voters "they're all cousins from the closest to the farthest degree," compadres at baptisms, weddings, etc. Cultural reminders of this kind are not found in progressive countries like the US, UK, Germany, Sweden, Norway, or Denmark where campaigning via TV is the preferred method.
Electing a party leader
In Australia and UK, the choice of a prime minister is only a party matter, where members choose a party leader for the top position in Parliament. The party's top leader, selected at a meeting, is treated like a popularly elected national leader. In most progressive countries voters never heard about the practice of selling/buying votes. Campaigners don't dish out favors of any kind to win votes. It's all about party programs, plans, and economic policies.
When a local/national politician in our country speaks about economic terms and policies, the audience prefers to leave the town square quietly until the speaker finds himself talking to a few drunks and his own loyalists numbering a few dozens. Townfolks, their friends, and neighbors don't understand GDP per capita, balance of payments, forex (foreign exchange), etc. But they are familiar with OFW remittances, foreign jobs/wages, and residency rights in Hong Kong.
Let's go back to selling/buying of votes. It would take years to attain expertise in this trade. Vote-buyers are not necessarily party loyalists. They don't profess long-term loyalty to any politician. If their Bossing stumbles, they can offer their services to the opponent who can give them new/better terms.
Vote-buying is a tricky business. It's like a secret bidding of supplies to the national government. The bidders - voters - can be a group of 10. But one voter can also demand a price not known to fellow voters. Vote-sellers have no specific loyalty to any politician, but consider carefully all offers from R400 to R4,000 per vote if the local contest is too tight to call.
How to buy votes
Some steps to follow in buying votes:
1) Prepare a list of 50 or 100 friendly voters about seven days before Election Day. Revise the list on a daily basis until three days or a day before the election.
2) Show a draft of the list to the local politicians' "DBM" manager for funding and ask him to release the budget as needed.
3) Find a way to get a list of the opponents' "sure voters" to prevent one voter from getting accommodation in two lists, or double sale (which means zero vote for or against).
4) "Spies" are needed to talk harshly to 50/100 voters on the list, bordering on mild "terrorism." Vote-sellers are easy to threaten into obedience with warnings, like "we count the votes in your precinct."
What's the source of my tips on vote-buying? My sidewalk café barkada and veteran ward leaders have all the answers I cannot fill. It's hard to question their expertise based on actual experience in four or six local elections. It is understood that local candidates and their "selected national choices" also benefit from vote-buying.
If 70 percent of northern Mindanao voters expect to benefit from selling votes the national average cannot be far behind. (Comments are welcome at email@example.com).