IT IS the lawyer who knows the law, it is the fisherman who knows how to fish, and it is the architect who knows how to design buildings. So why should voters rely on celebrities in choosing whom to pick as their political leaders?
But perhaps “rely” is too strong a word. Still, there’s no sugarcoating the fact that in this country, celebrity endorsements have helped many a politician win. In far too many cases even, celebrities themselves have been voted into public office with little to show beyond their showbiz credentials.
THE PHILIPPINE PRESS, widely held to be the freest and most rambunctious in Southeast Asia, has no reason to boast and gloat as journalists across the globe observe World Press Freedom Day today.
Aside from the string of unsolved murders of journalists, spotty compliance and outright mockery of the law on the disclosure of statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) by the country’s justices, lawmakers and executive officials continue to hinder the people’s right to know – ironically this year’s theme in commemorating press freedom.
Our latest offering is a series of stories about the gigs, gimmicks and exploits in college of three candidates for president — the Liberal Party’s Benigno C. Aquino III, the Nacionalista Party’s Manuel B. Villar Jr., and the Lakas-Kampi’s Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr.
These stories were written by communication students who are now working with the PCIJ on internship basis. We sent them out to field to discover how these candidates were like when they were students their age.
It was the late sixties, and while the rest of the world was into Woodstock and Marxist revolutions, Filipino students were slow to challenge authority. For Manuel Bamba Villar Jr. and his Thursday Club buddies, life was about finishing college, having fun, and catching a good movie now and then.
Much has changed since then. The young man clad in jeans and t-shirt then now wears tailored suits and owns more than a billion pesos in assets. The boy who was called “Bamba” by friends – after his middle name and after a popular song of the sixties, Villar would later don the titles of congressman, Speaker, senator, and then Senate president. The boy whose only aim then was to finish college now seeks the Presidency of the Republic.
THE HORRIBLY costly air war for the presidency has in recent weeks ceased being the exclusive domain of moneyed politicians and political parties. The new players and big buyers of political advertisements on television are seven apparently cash-rich party-list groups accredited by the Commission on Elections as supposed representatives of the “marginalized” and presumably poor sectors of Philippine society.
Three of the seven groups are neophytes in the electoral arena. How they managed to raise funds to purchase TV ads is just the first mystery.
THIS presidential campaign is turning out to be the most expensive yet in Philippine political history, but it is also a story of two extremes – profligacy and penny-pinching on political advertisements by the candidates.
In just the two months since the official campaign period began last February 9, six candidates for president racked up a daily average ad spending total of P10.5 million, or almost P633 million in 60 days. By contrast, the remaining three candidates had a total tri-media ad bill of zero, with data by media monitoring company Nielsen failing to yield a single print or broadcast spot bought by any of them.
THERE are still a few more weeks to go before the May polls, but the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is already busy counting – political ads, that is, not votes.
Election laws put specific caps on campaign expenditures and political ad airtimes, as well as on the size and frequency of printed campaign ads. With political strategists themselves saying that ads account for as much as 70 percent of the campaign expenditure of a candidate running for a national post, the Comelec has been after documents from broadcast and print media outfits that would show just how many – and for how much – ads candidates have been placing with them since the campaign period began on February 9.
IT’S A disconcerting paradox to say the least: In their avowed desire to serve in the highest office of the land, the top two candidates for president – Senator Manuel B. Villar Jr. of the Nacionalista Party and Senator Benigno S. Aquino III of the Liberal Party – are now being packaged and sold in the same way profit-driven firms market shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, diaper, infant formula, noodles, drugs for colds and diarrhea, mobile phone cards, beer, and whiskey.
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