How not to get votes

This was my column yesterday at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today. Again, sorry for the late post. It's a long story.

Many people were late for work yesterday, thanks to the monstrous traffic jam created by party-list hopeful Batas. One of the campaign strategies I hoped would not happen has come to pass. Not only do we have vehicles aimlessly driving around the country to parade the faces of candidates and annoy people with blaring jingles and litanies of the candidates’ supposed virtues, we now have organized caravans going around the country with thousands of vehicles participating.

Yesterday’s caravan was purportedly designed to bring honor to the country as it sought to earn a spot in the Guinness Book of Records for longest caravan of vehicles. The objective, we were told, was to get 5,000 vehicles to participate. I don’t know if they achieved it, and quite frankly I don’t think many among us care. Out of exasperation, I refused to listen to the running updates about that darned caravan that stranded people on the road seething under the extreme summer heat.

I tell you, this preoccupation with getting into that book of lists is one of the worst fads to hit this country. It is now even used as a justification to commandeer Edsa—the country’s busiest thoroughfare—and victimize tens of thousands of hapless commuters. It is also used as a campaign gimmick.

Isn’t there a law regulating campaign activities, especially those that clearly obstruct traffic and inconvenience people unnecessarily? In many places in Metro Manila, motorists and commuters often find themselves in situations where they have to find alternative roads simply because their paths have suddenly and magically sprouted makeshift stages for a political rally.

I know that there are certain sacrifices that must be made for the sake of democracy, but I wonder if it has crossed the candidates’ minds that elections are about trying to get voters on their side, not against them. I think the Batas party- list has just alienated more voters with those caravans that obstruct roads and victimize commuters and motorists. That’s a classic example of campaigning to lose.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada as Senate president preparatory to becoming the 15th President of the Republic of the Philippines is a thought that’s scary and hilarious at the same time. It’s so grotesque. Imagine addressing him as “Your Excellency” and picture him in state banquets and see if you can keep a straight face.

This rumor was circulating like crazy last Monday. A friend texted to alert me about the “discovery” of the plan called “Oplan Jingle Bells.” The name or metaphor they assigned to the plan is appropriate and I don’t just refer to the fact that bells are vacuous and hollow inside and often produce annoying sounds. But I ignored the information precisely because I figured one has to be a rabid Estrada loyalist to be excited about such a plan.

But apparently, there was something to the rumor because there it was on the evening news. ABS-CBN even used it as the banner story for Bandila, its late-night news program. Okay, hold those nasty reactions. I know that the fact that media picked up the story does not validate the veracity of the information. All I am saying is that there was smoke, lots of it, and media noticed, so it wasn’t a bum steer after all.

Estrada expectedly denied the existence of the plan saying he has no interest in the Senate presidency nor in becoming President of this country. But his supporters reacted with another spin: Jinggoy has the right to seek any elective position. The plot thickens.

If the information is true, then we are in serious trouble. According to the scuttlebutt, the Estradas are itching to get back at anyone and everyone who has crossed them or contributed to their continuing persecution and oppression. Not that Jinggoy Estrada’s victory as President in 2010 is a certainty—but it can happen. Believe me it can happen. We’ve seen worse things happen in this country.

If the information is baseless, then this kind of muck is indicative of how low we have sunk in the way we conduct election campaigns. Obviously, it is the administration candidates that stand to benefit from the scare. But then again, perhaps not. The thought of a Jinggoy Estrada presidency is enough to send most people packing to migrate to another country, but I doubt if it will translate into more votes for the Sultan of Sulu, Prospero Pichay, or Tessie Aquino Oreta.

Anyway, the conspiracy theory that reached me is that for Estrada to become Senate president, the two frontrunners for the seat (Manny Villar and Loren Legarda) need to be junked from the slate. That won’t make them lose the elections since the two are already way ahead of the pack, but if they finish with less stellar rankings, then their claim to the Senate presidency may be questioned. Estrada then swaggers into the frame. Scary.

Last Monday, I wrote about my incomplete slate for the Senate. I wrote that I was two names short. I immediately got all kinds of reactions from friends and hecklers alike.
Some e-mailed to make recommendations regarding which candidates I should pick to complete the slate. Naturally, they made a pitch for their own bets. Thank you, for taking the trouble to send me information that I already know. Yes, I am aware that Tessie Aquino-Oreta has apologized for performing that gig at the height of the Estrada impeachment. I am not aware that she has had a religious conversion but I do not think that this bit of information is relevant to the elections. I am not voting for her simply because I do not like her. And that’s all there is to it.

A certain J. Aguda e-mailed to heckle me about my choices. He (or she?) labeled me a TUTA (lapdog), which I think is also what they are calling the Team Unity candidates, for having more administration candidates in my slate. Duh! Party affiliation was farthest from my mind when I made my choices. I picked them for their individual qualifications, not because of their party affiliation. Besides, if one needs to be so snippy about it, my slate is actually 5-5 as Kiko Pangilinan and Martin Bautista are technically with the opposition.

I have written about this in the past but I will say it again just the same. I do not think that making choices based on political parties alone is judicious because, outside of certain party-list groups, our current political parties actually do not stand for anything distinct. What they are trying to pass off as platforms are motherhood statements about lofty aspirations and fuzzy short-term ideas that are not grounded on anything strategic or ideological.

Anyone out there who still believes that our candidates are capable of standing firmly behind a party must have been living under a rock since the time Ferdinand Marcos fled the country. Wake up, please. The Marcoses are back in power and our politicians have jumped political parties at a dizzying rate the whole political landscape resembles the most complicated Gorgian Knot ever. With everyone playing a political version of the party game musical chairs, it is almost impossible to trace political affiliations. And we can all be sure that in a few months, erstwhile enemies will once again be on the same side, or conversely, those who are running today on the same slate will find themselves on opposite sides of the political fence.

As they say, in politics there are no permanent enemies, only permanent friends.


Anonymous said…
I must admit I'm only half as current nowadays with local news, that I wouldn't sit thru the evening news largely because the pol ads are starting to get thru me in a negative way. Lately TV at home would be mostly Cartoon Networks or BBC and CNN and that dashing, intelligent etc etc journalist Anderson Cooper. That's why I didn't get that Junggoy (sounds better than Jinggoy, whaddayathink?) bit or the Jingle bells news. Him for president! A quintillion OMIGOD! God forbid, that if he wins we're off migrating to the US. You're so right. Up to now we're not even considering it but if that @#$%&* gets elected, time to ask my 20-yr old son to go get those papers moving. I will not anymore live in a country where I will be nauseated in my every waking day. And because that will be the day when I will probably lose all faith in the Filipino. I pray to God that will never happen.

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