It is mind-boggling when people running for public office spend ten times more than what they would legally earn from the position in a limited time.

A president only has a single, six-year term of office. A senator serves at least 12 years and a member of the House of Representatives and local officials, nine years.

The pay and allowances they would receive from the positions would never exceed the amount of money they would spend to win their seats.

That’s why politicians would want to stay in power beyond their terms, helping siblings, spouses, children and other relatives inherit their positions. They deny rivals a chance to gain power at all costs.

In most provinces, and even in Metro Manila, there are political families who have been in power for generations.

The Ortegas in La Union, for instance, have been in various levels of public office for more than 100 years.

In Makati City, the capital’s business district, Las Piñas, and in Mandaluyong, only one political family has been in power since 1986 when the late dictator was toppled in a nearly bloodless, military-backed civilian uprising.

In the past, competing political clans have been blamed for election violence but there have been less clan wars in recent history, except in some areas like Abra, Masbate, and in the Muslim provinces.

In 2009, 58 people were killed, including 33 media workers, in the worst political violence in the country’s history in Maguindanao province when the ruling Ampatuan clan stopped a rival family from filing a certificate of candidacy.

As security forces take control of some areas where there is intense rivalry, vote-buying has become the most convenient way to win elections.

There are two ways for politicians to bribe their way to victory — wholesale and retail vote-buying. These practices have been going on for years, even before Ferdinand Marcos won the elections in 1965.

The retail form of vote-buying is prevalent in local elections for governors down to barangay captains.

Cash, from P500 to P1,000, are handed out to voters to cast their ballots in favor of a politician.

In some cases, voters were paid off to keep them from casting their ballots and ensure the political victory of a certain politician — a method of vote suppression.

In some areas, politicians give out non-cash benefits to ensure voter support, like food baskets and job opportunities.

Politicians give out cash and gifts directly to voters in a retail form of vote-buying.

Under Republic Act 7166, local candidates are only allowed to spend P3.00 for every voter registered in the constituency where they filed their candidacies. Those running independently or without any political party are allowed to spend P5.00 for every voter. So, it’s unimaginable for politicians to hand out even P100 to P500 to some voters.

For candidates running for national office — president, vice president, and senators — they spend more to buy wholesale votes.

They do not deal with individual voters. They target influential political clans and individuals who can deliver votes from tens to hundreds of thousands — the so-called command votes.

They do not only give money but also promise positions and other political and economic favors once they are elected into office.

In the past, during manual balloting, candidates went to election officials at the regional and provincial, city, and municipal levels to manipulate election results.

In some remote provinces, for instance, voter turnout during elections was low but when results were reported out in canvassing centers, the turnout became as high as 80 percent to 90 percent.

In 2001 midterm elections, senatorial candidates were reportedly willing to buy P10 to P15 per vote for a minimum of 200,000 votes in a province to get into the winning circle.

When candidates bought their political seats, it could lead to corruption as they would try to recoup the expenses they had incurred during the campaign.

They would not only try to get back the amount of money they spent, they would also try to raise more for the next elections.

The people do not really benefit from vote-buying as politicians try to enrich themselves while in power. Once they have tasted power, they would try everything to remain in their positions as long as they wanted, and pass it to another family member.

No wonder in areas where political clans rule, the people remain poor while the people in power get richer. The politicians wanted the electorate to remain dependent on them.

In Ilocos Norte, for instance, the province is backward and people are poor while the Marcos family is fabulously rich. In Metro Manila, political families remained in power for decades because of the huge concentration of informal settlers.

Two presidential candidates — Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo and Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso, also known as Isko Moreno — were right when they said vote-buying is still rampant in the digital age when elections are automated.

Vote-buying is illegal but only a few have been penalized for the practice. Accepting the money and voting for another candidate will not end the practice. It will not discourage vote-buying.

As long as a large majority of the population remains poor, there will be vote-buying even if there are no guarantees the candidate who distributes cash will get elected. It will be a practice that will stay in this country for a long time.