“Happy Days Are Here Again”
About half a century ago this cliché was splashed in the editorial cartoon from that popular and well-read The Philippines Free Press, whenever the election fever “afflicts” the Filipino citizenry. Prospective candidates for a position can have their campaign anytime during the election year. There were no prohibitions then. The candidates can build billboards of any size, even as large as a cathedral façade; posters were plastered anywhere. A candidate can spend large amounts during the election season.
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Residences of candidates get transformed as haven for people who love to see, talk and exchange pleasantries with the politicians. Of course people dined and drank to their heart’s delight. On the eve of Election Day candidates would slaughter carabaos and pigs, to grace their tables with sumptuous meals for voters to feast on. Obviously the candidates knew that to get their votes they have to fill their stomachs with food.
“Happy days are here again” indeed.
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Funny is, the voters would not partake then the blessings of food and drink from just one candidate’s residence. They also partake of similar food in the other residences of the political opponents. Remarkably there was NO vote buying then.
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In the later 60’s elections and onward, candidates no longer hire extra house helpers to beef up kitchen workers to prepare food. Trusted leaders and campaign staff partake of the food in the candidates residences. These campaign volunteers are also tasked to stuff envelopes with money to be distributed to voters on the eve and during the Election Day. Still, “happy days are here again” election season in the Philippines.
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Political observers, cause-oriented groups, the church and the academe have for all these years continue to condemn this practice accusing politicians who do this as committing “prostitution of the ballots” and therefore a crime. Almost every politician knows this and yet nobody had been charged in court for this crime.
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Talented and well-meaning individuals who are qualified to hold elective positions but poor in this land of the orient seas have the least chances much less win an elective post. Whose fault? That would be a good topic for discussion.
By: Alvin Gz. Arpon
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