THE TEMPTATION of winning a seat in office has made it harder for candidates to hide their true and at times, ugly, intentions.

The starting gun for the campaign period hasn’t even sounded yet and already, some candidates are engaging in premature campaigning. In Quezon City alone, I chanced upon several posters. which were cleverly disguised as tools encouraging people to vote in the upcoming elections. You can tell these posters were endorsed by politicians, since they had the politician’s beaming face and name plastered next to a message that said, “Vote wisely this coming 2010 election.”

Now, urging people to exercise their democratic rights is certainly an admirable thing. But the way the politicians did it in the poster tainted their “altruistic” intentions — the message in the poster supersized the words “Vote, this, 2010” and the name of the politician, so that when viewed from afar, it looked like it was saying “Vote (name of candidate) this 2010.”

Whether or not this is intentional is up to the public to decide, but I’m willing to bet that it was. Ironically, nothing in the Omnibus Election Code said anything about emphasizing words, so these candidates can get away with the deed scot-free.

I have to hand it to these candidates for thinking up of ways to have an early edge without violating any campaign laws in the process. But though some may consider this as a minor offense, I see it as a good gauge of a politician’s lack of integrity. These politicians who see themselves as above the law – whatever position they may be running for – should not be tolerated. The fact that they are engaging in the trade of finding “loopholes” in election laws reflects not only a lack of respect for the law, but also a questionable moral compass.

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It is disturbing to think what they can be capable of in the long run, should they be elected into office. If they can think up of cunning means to bypass the law just to advance their career, then what’s to say they won’t resort to the same methods in the future, with maybe something bigger at stake, (like taking from public funds meant to fix roads or build hospitals)?

***

Seeing these posters reminded me of Manny Villar’s controversial statement, where he said candidates planning to run for president should have P1 billion. I heard this quote during a seminar a few weeks back titled Covering Elections and Uncovering campaign funds by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, which discussed the campaign funds of politicians, paralleled with their annual salary of no more than P40,000. What escapes me is how these candidates were able to dole out enough money for expensive advertisements worth millions, despite a meager annual salary. Magic? Witchcraft? Or perhaps something darker. One can’t help but ponder on whether or not the funds used by these candidates were indeed their own, or if these funds were the people’s hard-earned money in the form of taxes.

With that being said, I think this is something that the media should look into. Besides covering elections, media men should also keep a watchful eye on the budget of each candidate during the campaign period. If the people’s taxes are indeed being used for a specific politician’s gain, then there should be at least someone to observe this act and report those who overspend and disobey the law. That way, someone will be there to keep these politicians in line, and the “parable of the campaign fund” will be resolved.

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