MANILA, Philippines—The international observers of the 2013 midterm elections have recommended the enactment of a law against political dynasties.
“Mechanisms to enforce the constitutional provision against political dynasties should be legislated,” the election observers from the Compact for Peaceful and Democratic Elections-International Observers Mission (Compact-IOM) said as they ended their 10-day monitoring of the country’s elections.
The group highlighted four primary issues, namely political dynasty, election-related violence, vote-buying and election management, which were present in the elections.
But it observed that the recently concluded elections were generally more peaceful than those in 2010 and 2007.
“In contrast to the 2007 and 2010 elections, we observed a decrease in election-related violence, yet we also saw that violence was still being used as a tool in electoral campaigns,“ the group said.
They noted that political dynasties were still a common phenomenon in the provincial and local level around the country.
“Many of these family networks control economic and political power and go at all costs, including resorting to vote-buying and violence, to maintain power,” said observer Geline Avila from the United States.
“We talked to some of them and it’s alarming because they believe it is destiny to serve in public office,” she added.
‘More democratic culture’
Avila cited a political dynasty in Cebu. “A former congressman ran after his wife ran for Congress, his son-in-law ran for mayor in another town which was converted into a city even if not fulfilling the requirements. They used government money to build a palatial mansion.”
“The civil society should be supported in promoting a more democratic culture and the education system reinforced to cultivate a culture of qualification-based manner of choosing candidates,” the observers said, adding that they purposely left their recommendations on political dynasties vague because the government should be able to first identify and define what political dynasties are.
Avila also said the passage of the freedom of information (FOI) act might make the passage of an antidynasty law easier.
“We have recommendations from a civil society organization that an FOI law could help with issues of transparency. So that you could trace concretely how political families benefit economically from their government positions,” she explained.
The foreign observers also saw the need to encourage voter education campaigns directed at reframing the discourse on vote-buying. They expressed great concern on the indications of widespread vote-buying in all the areas they monitored.
Part of the game
“In some cases, vote-buying came in the form of vote negation, where voters were asked not to go out and vote,” said Mayasarah Lohse, an observer from Denmark. She quoted some candidates admitting buying votes as “part of the game.”
“In Cotabato, one mayor gave food before the elections…people queued for the free food. And then in Pili [Camarines Sur] in one politician’s house, a security guard of the mansion saw us [observers] and told the large crowd outside to go away,” Lohse said but admitted that it becomes increasingly difficult to get photographic proof of money changing hands during vote-buying.