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True Vision, ‘Necro’ Politics, Bandwagon Politics, And The 2010 Elections

September 25, 2009

BANDWAGON MONTAGE 1

This post jumped out at me after reading the latest missive from my friend and veteran journalist Rodney Jaleco who’s over at ABS-CBN Global’s North America news bureau.

I was reminded of the old-worn phrase “If many believe so, it is so,” also properly captured in the term ‘herd mentality.”

A Wikipedia entry expounds on this succinctly:

As more people come to believe in something, others also ‘hop on the bandwagon’ regardless of the underlying evidence. The tendency to follow the actions or beliefs of others can occur because individuals directly prefer to conform, or because individuals derive information from others.

Fair enough.

So is this what’s becoming operative as Filipinos try to make up their mninds about who should take Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s place when the clock strikes noon on June 30, 2010?

Or will we at long last ‘vote wisely’?

That should mean Filipinos picking the next President on the basis of his platform, his vision: WHAT HE STANDS FOR AND WHAT WE BELIEVE HE WILL DO IF HE DOES BECOME PRESIDSENT.

But there’s ‘the other factor’.

Last Sunday, a learned elder of mine lamented, nay warned, that the Philippines may be entering the “era of necro-politics.”

And as he smiled at me, I caught on automatically:

He meant that with Noynoy Aquino having been egged on to run on the basis of Filipinos’ quite emotional reaction to the death of his well-love mother, the Icon of Philippine Democracy Cory Aquino, were we not being careless and unthinking?

noynoy-aquino with cory portrait

Voting for someone on the basis of his mother having died?

Surely this is unfair, right?

Harse as such a statement is we do have to consider it and zoom out to the larger question of Noynoy Aquino’s fitness for office, and zooming out even further: how about the other ‘leading’ presidential aspirants.

NOY GIBO VILLAR CHIZ MONTAGE

They can, and will, disparage Aquino’s motivations and qualifications given how survey numbers show public preference for him surging.

Are the others themselves qualified or do they simply have the guns, goons, and gold?

What are their motivations, their agenda, and equally important, who are behind and around them?

Only then should the voter begin firming up his choice.

Let me segue now to Rodney Jaleco:

FINDING THE BANDWAGON
By Rodney  Jaleco

I read with some amusement former President Ramos’ usual antics at a Makati function where he found himself in a crowd that included Defense Secretary Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro. He is trying to be mysterious again.

The article indicated everyone was looking if he would “anoint” Teodoro – who if he wins the May 2010 polls, would be only the 3rd DND alumni to become president, the last one being Ramos himself.

I remember I was there myself – along with other reporters of the Defense Press Corps – when Ramos was about ready to take the plunge into the political arena. I can’t help laughing out loud how Fe, Manny, Aris, Glenda, Marc, Marielle, Maricar et al, and me, would try to analyze Ramos’ every word and gesture just to confirm that he would indeed be running for president. From how his cigar was angled and mangled in his mouth, to whether he would kiss that “baby” in the crowd.

I think I can safely say that DPC reporters launched Ramos’ presidential campaign, even before “EDSA 98” became a bumper sticker hit. And so it seems, the Camp Aguinaldo scribes have come full circle.

The 1992 presidential campaign cycle provided me an opportunity to study the dynamics of running a presidential campaign up close. I think the word was not yet fashionable then, but I became part of the “embedded” reporters tasked to tell the story about Ramos’ campaign from the start, all the way to the failed party convention which he defied by forming his own party, to the campaign stump that brought us all over the country.

Eventually, the Philippine Star put in Bobby Capco, a more seasoned political reporter, to carry the ball to the end goal.

But it was an experience I relish even more today. We worked like horses, fighting to get a paragraph or two on print because the events, the speakers and their message became sooo repetitive. But we got to see places that would otherwise be too remote or inaccessible to visit on our own.

It was also my baptism into politics. I saw how important a savvy, effective political operator can be to a candidate. He was often the heart – and gut – of a political campaign. I learned first hand why they say “all politics is local”.

There were endless meetings, from the moment our plane touched down the airport all the way to the wee hours of the following morning. I learned that the truly worthwhile stories were happening in these meetings.

That’s where the deals are made. It’s a bidding war among the national candidates for the support of the local politicians who, more often than not, don’t have true political affiliations. At the barangay, municipal and city levels, party loyalty is a myth.

It’s who has the best offer. That can be in the form of cash, or an appointment for a relative in a juicy government post, or a basketball court for the teenagers, or just a good, old visit to the most expensive sauna parlor in town, or all of the above.

The political operator’s job is to make these local politicos’ dreams come true. And there was a political calculus being used based on demographic strength, much like a businessman measuring his ROI or balancing his books. They knew exactly how much to give them so their candidate still comes up ahead.

We would sometimes go into a city a day ahead of the candidate. We were told we can do some “advancer” stories but in fact, our press handler needed to get there early. Since he was our “point of contact” he had to take the press pack with him even if they weren’t needed there yet.

I found myself tagging along with him as he made the rounds of the local newspapers and virtually buy an extra edition that carried a banner extolling Ramos. By the time the candidate flew into town, most of the newspapers on the streets told the “Ramos story”.

Of course they also carried stories of a congressional, mayoral or gubernatorial bet – and that was extra revenue for the newspaper. Anyone who knows about the travails of Philippine community newspapers may see this as manna from heaven.

All these were intended to project an image of a rising groundswell of support for the candidate. The bandwagon. It can start at the top or it can be sparked from below.

I see this being done for Senator Manny Villar, and they’re starting to ignite one for Teodoro. But Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III has gotten a huge headstart against his opponents (they’re not yet officially presidential candidates).

A favorite political operator, one whom I learned from so much, told me “once you see the bandwagon, it’s too late”.

In this sense, Manny and Gibo will have to work overtime to catch up with Noynoy, who’s gotten some very high-profile endorsements including that of President Arroyo’s foreign affairs secretary and key lawmakers who belong to what’s supposed to be the administration coalition expected to serve as the backbone of Teodoro’s presidential campaign.

Winning supporters from the other side is much more valuable. The psychological and propaganda value, especially for the political masses, ensure a bigger wallop especially when they come at crucial stages of the campaign.

What are these stages? I don’t know and I guess neither do they – they will be dictated by events that will transpire from now to May 2010.

When President Obama won the Democratic nomination, most believed he would fight Senator John McCain over the unpopular Iraq War. Then, the Lehman Brothers collapse started the Wall Street domino that wreaked havoc on the US financial system, triggering a worldwide meltdown. The economy quickly and ominously took center stage, and the Iraq War, a debate that McCain could have more easily managed, was drowned in the deluge of panic and uncertainty.

Noynoy’s campaign is driven in large part by the death and legacy of his mother, former President Cory Aquino. She was the nation’s icon of democracy, passing at a time of perceived unbridled corruption and abuses by President Arroyo, her family and her administration cohorts. He is, many people tell me, on the right side of history – to borrow a phrase often used by Mr. Obama.

If Noynoy and Gibo and Manny are responding to the challenge of the times, then I don’t believe the traditional tools of the presidential campaign will suffice to push one of them to victory.

Over half of Filipino voters are women. The vast majority are 20-34 years old. Only about a fourth of the voters have a college diploma or spent some years in college but more than 60% of them are likely to be married with one or more children. The official unemployment rate is 7.6 percent, which means roughly three million Filipinos – potentially three million voters – don’t have a job. And that figure comes from the government so that means the numbers could be higher.

Obviously, Filipinos want change. Those statistics are horrible. More Filipinos need to get a college education so they have a better chance of landing good-paying jobs. I would think they’re sick and tired of corruption that steals money that should otherwise go them in the form of basic services. Women need better protections. I don’t think playing around with wagons, band or not, will work.

They are trying to build images and, for some, mirages perhaps.

The only real change that matters would have to come from the people themselves.

Rather than running a campaign, I believe political operators should be mobilizing a people’s movement.

I read the other day of poor folks contributing one peso to Noynoy’s campaign. A political gimmick, if ever I saw one. But is it? I wasn’t there so I have no way of determining that.

But can’t this be the new spirit that should drive this latest election cycle? If it were a sincere gesture, can’t this be the spark of a new movement? A campaign funded and driven by the youth, the poor and the politically disenfranchised segments of society? The very people who need change the most, animating the campaign and consequently the ballot in 2010?

Now, wouldn’t that be better than a bandwagon? That’s the change I can believe in.

– Rodney Jaleco

POSTSCRIPT

The Liberal Party is now rolling out its national campaign for the Noynoy Aquino-Mar Roxas ticket with a clear vision and program of government underpinning its push:

http://www.liberalparty.ph/

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. king del rosario permalink
    October 5, 2009 7:15 pm

    The problem with saying the fight is between good and evil is that those who claim to be good has to actively do good. The moment you concede a bit and become the lesser evil, the problem then is that you are still evil.

    • October 5, 2009 7:24 pm

      Yes, king it’s can never be black vs white.

      \But the contrast being drawn by the protagonists, methinks, is an attempt to differentiate in simple terms for the electorate.

      I’llwait for the campaign to become full blown and see what the fights, in a manner of speaking, have to offer concretely.

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