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Friday, 01 April 2016 14:22

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

San Jose. CA. — It is said that the best ticket in U.S. politics cost about $36,000. For that amount, you can have dinner with the president of the United States. A similar check will allow you to have breakfast with the speaker of the House, the Senate majority leader or, for that matter, any of their rivals. If you’re lucky, you may have commemorative photos, private policy briefings, meeting with top aides and a handwritten note of thanks. Plus, your views, no matter how flimsy they may be, are likely to be heard. Yeah, money talks.

In the Philippines, other than the invisible Ayala Avenue campaign contributors, how much can an individual or a businessmen’s group give to candidates or political parties in a particular election? The U.S. Congress, as did our Commission on Elections, put the rules in place to avoid overspending by moneyed candidates that will give them due advantage over their opponents who don’t have money. Here, also, the U.S. legislature made sure to keep wealthy interests from buying official favors by funding an entire political party to stop the impression that the political process is corrupt. This isn’t true in the Philippines. Makati businesses dictate the pace of elections.

As the voting nears, more money, analysts say, is being scattered. It’s a quid-pro-quo scenario between the donors and the candidates. This enormous influence the big campaign donors enjoy over politicians is absolutely improper, for here breeds corruption and later on the commission of graft.

You see it everyday as the campaign goes on — how money is influencing the polls and even surveys — flooded television ads, radio breaks, highly-compensated newspaper columnists and public relations trolls. The risk of corruption ignited by big corporations, labor unions, millionaires and billionaires that bankroll the candidates’ election bid is high, extremely high.

Philippine politics has always been dictated by the moneyed and those writing the huge checks, the sort of quid-pro-quo that I said earlier. Elite political donor clubs in Makati, Taguig and Ortigas are on the rise again, especially those in the business of telecommunications.

If the limits on campaign spending is strictly implemented by the COMELEC, all presidential candidates would be disqualified. But, no. This is a free country that allows offenses, exempts politicians from violating election laws and manipulating the constitution and permits voting manipulation to favor the powerful few.

With several politically-charged directives coming from Malacanang lately, such such salary increase for state workers, President Aquino needs all the muscle and clout he can muster to make his anointed win, even by plurality, as was Fidel V. Ramos’s over Miriam Defensor-Santiago. I assume that the Liberal Party is locked in intense behind-the-scenes horse-trading with political clans that have softened up on Mar Roxas. Votes for favors will be bartered which is the only way that the gentleman from Region 6 can win.

This late, bipartisan collaboration is being discussed among opposing party leaders. The Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan are also part of the discussions as President Aquino is likely to face plunder and other serious charges when he leaves office. Those who have crossed parties earlier will come together as the race gets tighter.

He who did a good job and has shown to be a good leader will get the voters’ nod on May 9. Was Roxas a good cabinet member? Is Ms. Poe ready for the job? Is Duterte open to real economic programs other than his vow to kill all criminals? Will Binay break all barriers and prove the stone-throwers wrong? Finally, will Miriam turn into “Wonder Woman” and rescue our ailing country from her sick bed?