THE LIGHTER SIDE
Making (Non)Sense of Politics Election Lexicon Quickie Quiz for the Politically Insane All these from i’s special election issue Order your copy now!
THE LIGHTER SIDE
Making (Non)Sense of Politics
Quickie Quiz for the Politically Insane
All these from i’s special election issue
Order your copy now!
T H E C A M P A I G N — FIRST-WORLD TECHNIQUES, THIRD-WORLD SETTING
IN THE so-called mature democracies of the West, there are experts for every task in a campaign. In the United States, the election industry is huge, manned by a wide range of specialists including campaign managers, political consultants, public relations people, speechwriters, audio-visual experts, and fundraisers. They operate by a set of rules and design campaign strategies based on scientifically obtained data provided by another component of that growing industry: the profession of campaign research that includes not only pollsters but also psychologists and behavioral experts.
That is partly why families and friends remain the captains of Philippine political campaigns. Fernando Poe Jr.'s campaign machinery, for instance, is packed with his siblings and supporters in the entertainment world. Brother Conrad Poe handles logistics, sister Elizabeth Poe is the official scheduler, while erstwhile comedian and Senator Tito Sotto is the campaign manager. Even actors Rez Cortes and Richard Gomez have been assigned parts to play in the campaign, as has Poe's swarm of stuntmen-friends who dabble as spokespersons, rallyists, and even act as Poe's security cordon.
On that point, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo isn't far behind. Her brother Diosdado 'Buboy' Macapagal Jr. is her campaign manager and fundraiser. First Gentleman Mike Arroyo is in the thick of her campaign, too, even if just last year, he had gotten embroiled in a scandal that portrayed him as using an alias to stash away millions of pesos of surplus campaign funds from his wife's 1998 vice-presidential bid.
Of course, a family-run campaign does not necessarily translate into an inefficient and ineffective venture. The most politically experienced clans have even elevated political campaigning to an art, and have over time mastered how to best maximize manpower, resources, and connections. Elite families are especially skilled at this, putting the charismatic and media-savvy members at the frontlines, assigning the crafty and the cunning to the management side, and mobilizing the clan and its network for other tasks in the campaign, including recruiting campaigners, poll watchers, goons, bodyguards — even hitmen, if need be.
But with this election promising more pros, campaigns are bound to be slicker than ever. There is, for instance, the advertising agency Campaigns and Grey and its stable of image specialists working for presidential candidate Raul Roco. There will also be groups like Tiquia's Publicus Ltd., a political consultancy firm that provides campaign services to senatorial and local candidates. There is even the television production team TAPE Productions — which puts out programs like the noontime variety show "Eat Bulaga!" — acting as image makers for Fernando Poe Jr.
Most of these professionals, though, remain in the background. "It's an underground industry-most of these people don't carry calling cards, don't introduce themselves, don't appear at press conferences, don't advertise their services," says a political consultant. "They get hired by referral and by word of mouth. The really good ones are overloaded with clients and forced to turn down others."
For this article, they refused to be identified. "You let the spotlight fall only on your principal," this political consultant adds. Another one says, "The pros are often relegated to the backroom, or they don't have the stature to face the public." "Undocumented experts," is how yet another political consultant describes himself and his peers.
The secrecy is understandable. Most of them have day jobs, either as reporters, columnists, businessmen, advertising executives, legislative staff, or civil servants. Elections and political campaigns don't come that often and cannot be a stable source of livelihood, which is why most political professionals consider themselves "political sacadas" or sharecroppers whose work is seasonal.
Besides, in the professions where they officially belong, moonlighting for politicians is an ethical taboo. Journalists working as public relations practitioners or political consultants would be violating the rules on independence, impartiality, and conflict of interest.
Some advertising agencies even insist that they have no history or record of involvement in political campaigns. Yet as far back as 1965, the presidential campaign was already a battle of the ad agency executives.
When Marcos ran for reelection four years later, Esposo continues, he got Greg Garcia, who eventually headed the prominent ad agency Hemisphere-Leo Burnett. Greg Garcia, now retired but still part owner of Leo Burnett, is the chief image handler of Senator Panfilo Lacson.
The reticence of many professionals in admitting their political work stems from the stigma it apparently carries. Political campaigning is often viewed as an illicit undertaking. Players are perceived to ink deals and engage in dirty tricks and special operations that can go from wooing special interest groups and thinking up a candidate's position on issues, to peddling propaganda, buying the media, and negotiating for votes with local party leaders.
But much of the bad name suffered by political professionals has also been blamed on Marcos. After he declared martial law in 1972 and abolished elections, the political pros' skills and talents were put to use only to promote his Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (the only active political party at that time) or push his New Society.
It was a situation that didn't allow skilled political organizers to thrive and develop a profession called campaign management or political consultancy. Although the Development Academy of the Philippines and the Department of Interior and Local Government became training grounds where political managers could hone their skills managing political organizations, all their work was still for Marcos's benefit. The only other option was to escape the system and cross over to activist organizations or the underground Left, such as the National Democratic Front (NDF) or the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Today's top party and campaign people, in fact, trace their roots to these diverse beginnings: Lakas's Gabriel Claudio and Ronaldo Puno were products of the DILG, while Horacio 'Boy' Morales and Rigoberto Tiglao, came from the leftist movement.
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