Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

“Clean” Elections?

Posted by butalidnl on 12 April 2010

There are all kinds of groups campaigning for, or working for, clean elections. And they usually mean that the elections would have no more of the vote-buying and cheating that most Philippine elections have. But what I’m advocating here is another kind of clean election. One in which there will be no more election posters after the elections. So, in a sense, the election is “clean”, right?

Well, there have been citizens campaigns for this kind of clean election; but these have had little effect. How can you dissuade politicos from putting up their posters anywhere and everywhere? However, maybe they need to have a change of starting point.
I believe that the more correct starting point for such a campaign would be the municipality. Let the municipality ensure that candidates clean up after the elections. Of course, if one were to wait till after the elections, it would be too late – the candidates don’t have any money left, and you have no leverage over them to force them to clean. Thus, the cleanliness measures should be done BEFORE the campaign. How?

Well, the first thing would be a municipal ordinance that require all candidates to post a clean-up bond – which obliges them to clean up after the elections. If they fail to do so, after a week or so, the municipal government will clean up the posters and charge the expense to the bond, including not only the clean-up expense, but a significant penalty.
So, before the campaign, the municipal government will designate a senior civil-servant to be in charge of implementing this ordinance. This is to ensure that the ordinance will not be implemented politically. Then, they figure out how much it would take to clean up the mess from election posters. And then, based on this, they set an amount as the bond or deposit that all candidates should put up to ensure that there will be a clean-up. All candidates should pay up; those that don’t will get their posters removed (except from Comelec-approved posting areas) by municipal workers, during the campaign period itself; or if caught before posting, the posters will be confiscated. Political parties would pay one fee for all its members, but local candidates’ fees are separate from national candidates.

Of course, the incumbent mayor should be the first to pay the deposit, to set a good example. And a week after the elections, the municipal workers will clean up the remaining posters, and note for which candidates they were. Then, the various parties will be charged for the expense, and the charge will include a 100% penalty. This will be all charged against the deposit/bond. So, the government will be sure that there will be funds for the clean-up.

Isn’t this a good idea? It should not be too difficult for candidates to dish out the necessary bond/deposit. And to clean up after the elections. All it takes is the political will of the incumbent municipal government. And the municipality will be cleaned of all election posters, at no expense to the government, after the election.

Impossible? Well, this is the system by which local governments in the Netherlands ensure that their cities are clean after elections. And I suppose this is also done in other European countries. Thus, it should not be impossible to implement in the Philippines

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