Editorial & Opinion

Is it vote-buying or helping people?

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When it comes to the reprehensible practice of vote-buying, the poor may view it differently, according to research findings of the Institute of Philippine Culture (IPC).

The “conflict poor” in Zamboanga City and the “urban poor” in Quezon City see vote-buying for what is, but among the rural poor, “it becomes a moral gray zone … where giving money can be seen as a form of help,” said Filomeno V. Aguilar Jr., one of the project directors of the IPC study, titled “Vote of the Poor 2016.”

Initial results of the study were presented on Monday, April 25, at Ateneo de Manila University’s Social Development Complex. The other project directors of the IPC, a research organization of Ateneo’s School of Social Sciences, were Lisandro Elias E. Claudio, Jayeel S. Cornelio and Jose Jowel P. Canuday.

The researchers have also been conducting in-depth interviews and field research in an indigent barangay each in Quezon City, Tacloban City and Zamboanga City, and in Camarines Sur province since January.

The communities were deemed “indigent” based on residents having low income or unstable livelihood, living in informal settlements, or being beneficiaries of the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

To gauge how the poor perceive electoral processes, the IPC also commissioned “rider” questions in a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey in September and in an ongoing SWS survey this April.

“The disaster poor and the rural poor tend not to say that accepting money is selling one’s vote,” Aguilar said.

Initial findings of the IPC interviews showed that 82.8 percent of respondents in Quezon City and 83.3 percent of respondents in Zamboanga City saw the act as simple vote-buying.

Only 3.3 percent of those in Quezon City and 6.7 percent of those in Zamboanga considered candidates’ giving money as “helping people.”

In Tacloban City, the ground zero of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), 63.3 percent of the respondents saw the act of vote-buying for what it is, with 20 percent considering it as help, and 16.7 percent considering it as both.

The figures were split, however, in a far-flung barangay in Camarines Sur. While 36.7 percent of the respondents saw the act of vote-buying as is, 36.7 percent saw it as helping people and 23.3 percent saw it as both.

The IPC research and interviews in the four communities found that from the poor voter’s perspective, the money could be considered:

“Biyaya,” or a blessing, to help meet their needs.

Rightful money they deserve because it’s the people’s money.

Earned or transactional money similar to payment for rendering a service.

Accessible or easy money that comes unsolicited and creates no obligations.

Dead money or tainted money that cannot be used for dignified purposes like feeding one’s family.

The IPC’s rider questions in the SWS survey were appended to the preelection survey on the presidential race conducted on Sept. 2-5 last year, whose results was first published in BusinessWorld on Sept. 23, 2015.

The survey, according to an SWS release, was conducted using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults, 300 each in Metro Manila, balance of Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. It had margins of error of plus-or-minus 3 percent nationwide, and plus-or-minus 6 percent each for Metro Manila, Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

While Aguilar admits the findings from the IPC field survey was “not statistically representative,” the research sought to show that “we cannot homogenize the poor.”

“It is a form of symbolic violence against the poor … when you talk of the poor as ‘bobotante,’ without us understanding the particular circumstances in their respective communities. We need to be more sensitive to that,” he said.

 

Candidates’ attributes

The respondents were asked what voters should consider the most important attributes for a presidential candidate.

Sixty-nine percent said they were looking for one with “concern for the poor,” 61.4 percent wanted one with “personal integrity,” while 55.1 percent favored one with a “principled stance.”

Trailing in the list of attributes was “intelligence,” which only 38.6 percent of the respondents found important. Only 18.3 percent saw “experience in governance” as important, 16.3 percent for “platform of government,” and only 4 percent for “name.” Less than one percent, or 0.3 percent had no answer.

Aguilar, in presenting these results, noted that concern for the poor was an important presidential attribute “for the majority in all [social] classes,” cited by around 76 percent of respondents in Class E, nearly 69 percent of respondents in Class D, and nearly 54 percent of respondents in Classes ABC.

Aguilar said that in the IPC fieldwork in the four indigent barangays, the voters saw concern for the poor or “malasakit sa mahihirap” in candidates who address their constituents’ long-term and emergency needs; those who are “nonpartisan,” and those who have “visibility” in the community.

Likewise, personal integrity (“pagkatao”) was important for the majority in all social classes, cited by 60.7 percent of respondents in Class E, 60.9 percent in Class D, and 69.7 percent in Classes ABC.

Having a principled stance (“paninindigan”) proved the most important attribute for majority - or nearly 75 percent - of respondents in Classes ABC, Aguilar noted.

 

No mudslinging

But one thing “resoundingly rejected” by poor voters were “negative campaigns” or mudslinging (“paninira”), he said. When residents in the four indigent communities surveyed by the IPC were asked if they were in favor of negative campaigning, almost all respondents - 30 per barangay - disapproved of the practice.

It proved to be a “major objection to presidential debates,” Aguilar said. The poor were also found to quickly find out candidates who contradicted themselves.

“They felt that these candidates must represent the best possible person to lead this country, of having a persona that can rise above these petty quarrels or above putting down other candidates,” he said.

“They will not believe criticisms coming from just anyone,” Aguilar said. “But when somebody contradicts themselves, that catches their attention,” he added, underscoring that “the poor are thinking [voters].”

Asked for policy recommendations, Claudio said: “I don’t think we’re proposing anything specific when it comes to government policy. But we are proposing a kind of change in discourse in the way we talk about vote-buying of the poor.”

“When we engage in voter education, a lot of it is extremely moralistic … . It assumes the poor don’t know what they are doing when, in fact, they do,” he said. Inquirer.net

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