Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VII, No. 11      April 22- 28, 2007      Quezon City, Philippines











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How Much Does It Cost to Get Elected?
Profile of a trapo’s war expenditures

A candidate for mayor or representative to the Lower House has to spend around P73, 060,  000 ($1,537,781).  If s/he wins, how will s/he be able to recoup his/her expenses?  If others helped him/her to fund the campaign, to whom will s/he be beholden to? Whose interests will s/he be serving if s/he won?



An independent group in Bacolod advocating alternative politics to trapo (traditional politician) politics computed how much a candidate running for a congressional and mayoralty seat spends to get elected.

Payroll accounts for the highest expenditure of politicians. As many as 6,000 ward leaders are maintained by trapos. Ward leaders constitute the backbone of election campaign organizations. They are the campaigners in the puroks or barangays (villages) where they live. They receive a minimum of P2, 000 ($42.09 at an exchange rate of $1=P47.51) per month for three months prior to the election. This alone costs P12 million ($252,578) per month or P36, 000, 000 ($757, 735) for three months.

In between elections, ward leaders of incumbent officials are hired as casuals, or job order casuals, or holds office in the city's bureaucracy. If not, then the wife or husband or any of the children of the ward leaders get the job. Casuals are allocated jobs for a minimum of three months a year. Aside from the casuals, there are 15-30 “ghost” employees hired by the city or municipality. Trapos live on patronage politics and the incumbent has the advantage, "To the victors go the spoils."

Precinct leaders are also maintained. They belong to a precinct and keep tab of the voters in the precinct. They identify voter preferences and concentrate their campaign on those who they can sway to vote for their candidate. They focus on the undecided and determine the amount needed to buy votes.

Bacolod City has about 2,500+ regular precincts and 1,300+ clustered precincts. For the sake of computation, the number of precincts is pegged at 3,000. Two precincts leaders are maintained for the job. A precinct leader gets P1, 000 ($21) each multiplied by 6,000 leaders amounts to P6 million ($126,289) for one month or P18, 000, 000 ($378,867) for three months.

Barangay captains are also maintained. Generally, they are beholden to candidates, especially the incumbents. There are 61 barangays in Bacolod. A barangay captain is given a minimum of P50, 000 ($1, 052) during elections, although some receive more. This totals P3, 050, 000 ($64, 197).

Purok presidents are also included in the scheme of things. Assuming that there are about 10 puroks per barangay and each president is given P2, 000 ($42.09). The accumulated cost is P1, 220, 000 ($25, 678) for one month or P3, 660, 000 ($77,036) for three months.

On election day, a candidate needs watchers. Two watchers are assigned to each one of the 3,000 precincts. At a minimum of P500 ($10.52) per watcher, the total cost is P3 million (63, 144). This does not yet include the budget for the meals of the watcher.

The campaign needs sound systems for various campaign sorties. For the 45-day campaign period the cost for the sound system would amount to P1, 350,000 ($28,415)

The candidate also spends for transportation.  Campaigners need transportation to go to various barangays, puroks and other areas. On election day, vehicles are also hired to transport voters from far-flung barangays to the voting place. Transportation costs amounts to least P3 million ($63, 144).

Finally, the candidate must spend for streamers, posters, handbills, leaflets and other campaign materials. Some of these are donated or provided by friends, relatives, business associates and others who endorse the candidate. The cost for these items is conservatively pegged at P5 million ($105, 241).

In sum, the minimum expenses of a trapo for an election are as follows:

  Ward leaders P36,000,000
  Precinct leaders   18,000,000
  Barangay Captains     3,050,000
  Purok Presidents     3,660,000
  Watchers     3,000,000
  sound systems     1,350,000
  transportation costs     3,000,000
  streamers, posters, handbills, etc     5,000,000
  TOTAL EXPENSES P73,060,000 ($1,537,781)

On this minimum conservative figure, why is a candidate willing to spend this amount in an election when the accumulated salaries of a mayor for a three-year term amounts to P 2 million ($42, 096) and P3 million ($63, 144) for a representative of the Lower House?

How would the mayor or House representative recoup his/her campaign expenses? What are the “benefits” of winning in an election that political clans are willing to kill for?   

If these costs are put up by businessmen, what are the pay backs?

Do voters really have a choice? 

People’s growing political maturity

To the trapos most voters are mere commodities for sale to the highest bidder. Some voters do sell their votes because they feel that nothing comes out of elections anyway so might as well make a profit out of their votes. 

However, a number of independent cursory surveys in Bacolod city and nearby provinces reveal that the number of voters who vote on the basis of principles and programs are increasing by the year, and after every election period.

Though still the minority, mature voters are slowly making their presence felt. During the 2004 elections, Delia Locsin who is identified with groups working for social reforms challenged the post of Governor Joseph Maranon. Although she lost by a wide margin, many were still surprised that she got close to a hundred thousand votes as against Maranon’s more than half a million. When she filed her candidacy, many speculated that she would only get between 30,000 to 50,000 votes.

Militant partylists who have the biggest command votes among the non-trapo forces supported Locsin’s candidacy.  

Today, observers noted, the combined force of organized and non-organized non-trapo forces could have increased by several fold as shown in the number of people per district who campaigned for militant partylists and known non-trapo independent candidates.

Whether they will make a big difference this time remains a big question. But political observers here said that the fact that trapos are desperate to increase their political war chest to as much as P150 million ($3, 157, 230) to P200 million ($ 4, 209, 640) may mean that the stakes are getting higher and there are less votes available in the market.  

Call for rejection of trapos and political dynasties

Bacolod Congressional aspirant Andy Hagad, an independent candidate who belong to circles which promote alternative politics said that the coming elections is the proper time to reject trapos and all trimmings of traditional politics.

“In order to break the stranglehold of these trapos in our political lansdscape we must not vote for them on May 14, 2007. This way, we declare once and for all, the message that we, the electorate, finally has come of age. Then and only then, can we have the candidates with the best minds and with the best intention to serve the needs of our people in 2010.”

“The time to shift our political paradigm is now. Let us not lose it,” he concluded. Bulatlat




© 2007 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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