"Badil:" Once a political problem, now a sociological one

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

They call it "badil" here, where I presently am. It can come under many names depending on where you are, or many allusions, depending on your wit. You may call it the Santa Claus of elections, for instance. Everywhere else, it is vote-buying in English. Once the scourge of electoral polls it has morphed into a sociological phenomenon that both baffles as well as amuses.

Early Monday shortly after the barangay and SK Elections opened President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. cast his vote at the Mariano Marcos Memorial Elementary School in Batac City, Ilocos Norte. In response to a question, Marcos vowed to step up government efforts to address vote buying, one of the perennial problems during Philippine elections.

Marcos said it is unfortunate that despite government efforts, the problem still persists. He has monitored reports of people who go around and attempt to buy votes. He said aside from government, it is also the duty of people to safeguard their right to suffrage in choosing officials they deem best for the job. He described barangay officials as frontliners in government service.

I have seen many elections and been witness to hundreds of incidents of vote buying. I don't know if it is the place where "badil" is practiced that gives it a surprising distinction to how it is done in most other places. In most other places there is a sort of surreptitiousness in the way the deals are conducted. There is an element of secrecy to it. A hint of cloak-and-dagger, if you will.

In "badil" country everything is wide open. There is a tad of fanfare involved. There is no furtiveness nor hesitation. It is all a matter of expectations given rise and expectations fulfilled. Money that changes hands has lost the ring of dirtiness to it. "Badil" for all intents and purposes is no longer vote-buying but a handshake, a greeting.

"Badil" is given to almost everyone, almost without distinction to party lines or political affiliations. Opposites prevail in the practice. Where a seller of votes is ostracized, here it is the buyer who gets the nail if he does not buy. Here, "badil", which President Marcos described as a huge problem, is in fact a solution to so many problems.

Of the three "badil" seasons I have experienced, let me focus on the 2019 midterm elections. In 2019, money poured like a "Yolanda" of sorts. Candidates/buyers where going for up to a high of ?2,500 per voter/seller to a low of ?50 (no distinctions are made on the positions of the candidates). With some 35,000 voters the buying prices made sure a voter gets roughly ?7,500.

If you belong to a household of, say, five voters, that means that household has ?37,500. If the town has a voting population of something like 35,000 and each voter had at least ?7,500 then that means "badil" plowed in ?262,500,000 overnight into the economy of the town. This is probably even more than the revenues of the town for that year.

Every household had more money than it can have during Christmas. During Christmas only the employed can have extra money in the form of bonuses. It is no wonder that the shopping spree that ensued was more than Christmas, New Year, and fiesta put together. From food, clothing, gadgets, medicine, construction materials, --everything flew off the racks and shelves as if there was no tomorrow.

Pedicabs vanished from the streets, fish vendors vanished from the market, hair and nail stylists could not be found. Everybody seems to have gone off to a vacation. Long lines formed at terminals. They were all going to the "hukilau!" Now who can really say if "badil" is good or bad? It is time the sociologists and social scientists take over this phenomenon from the moral guardians.

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