So close to 2016 elections and politicos are already putting on quite a show. At this point it’s every man and woman for himself or herself, with a loose cannon or two to throw in for good measure, the more the merrier is the name of the game.
Between Rodrigo Duterte and Mar Roxas, Roxas’s mom and Roxas’s wife, Grace Poe and Chiz Escudero, Abigail Binay and Toby Tiangco, the past two weeks have been exciting and laughable in equal measure. I hear it was also survey season, therefore the race for media mileage, the better to be in the consciousness of the “every-Pinoy” who might be surveyed.
Radio shows? Check! TV talk shows? Check! Wit and laughter ala Chiz? Check! The fierce comeback of the adopted daughter of Da King? Check! A magazine cover (sort of)? Check na check!
One of the more memorable interviews was that of Senator Chiz Escudero on the Linda Jumilla show on ANC, where he was his usual witty self, answering every question in as straightforward a manner as possible, and skillfully evading questions he had no answers to – or which he did not want to answer.
Clearly his loyalty stands with Senator Grace Poe, and it was then, listening to Escudero’s sing-song his way through the interview, that I got the inkling he and Poe just might dare declare themselves as independent candidates for the highest seats in the land. Elsewhere, I had interviewed Escudero, and if there’s anything I took from that interview it is that his notion of independence is not something he takes lightly.
It wouldn’t take long before the two made an appearance together, in stark white, reminiscent of Tingting Cojuangco and her daughters at the anti-Erap rallies circa 2001, the great white hope in the midst of diverse groups in various colors.
But Escudero and Poe just seemed too praktisado for comfort, like they knew exactly the questions that were going to be asked, and they had answers that would ensure media mileage.
Congressman Toby Tiangco of UNA only fanned the Escudero-Poe fire, as with the right amount of prompting, Poe revealed her fiery self and threatened to run for President because Vice President Jejomar Binay’s camp was so obviously threatened by the possibility. (GMANewsOnline, 3 June)
Poe had successfully skirted the question of her eligibility, as the media fell gladly into the trap of going on the melodramatic search for her beginnings as a foundling.
After that revelation, Poe has been in the news everyday.
No matter that the VP’s daughter, Congresswoman Abigail, tried to do damage control (ABSCBNNews.com, 5 June), and the VP himself has since declared: I’m adopted, too! (GMANewsOnline, 5 June)
One wishes the Binay camp knew exactly when to shut up because the battle in media has already been lost – if it was not lost to begin with.
One wishes that any of these candidates could level up and talk issues, not fall into the media’s trap of doing stories that will trend, because these are familiar, because these stories play like a soap opera. This weekend they follow Senator Poe’s story to Iloilo.
The President and his man
Mar Roxas has since empathized with Senator Poe: he has experienced being at the receiving end of mudslinging, he says, and he tells Poe: “Manatili ang iyong katatagan ng loob at nasa tama ang gawain at hangarin” (ABS-CBNNews.com, 4 June)
Roxas could do better than to ride on the Escudero-Poe wave. After all, he’s got his own mother putting in a good word for him: “Please do not forget my son, Mar Roxas <…> Can you imagine if a Negrense is in Malacañang, what can come to us in Negros?” she told the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters. (Inquirer.net, 31 May)
Without his mother, Roxas would have media personality Korina Sanchez running an informal campaign, she who is on TV every day of the week. She only needs to hyphenate her name and you’ve got a Roxas on primetime TV.
And then there’s this: all Roxas has to do is his job with less of the rhetoric that we’ve heard him use since Yolanda, and that authoritative tone that we have since proven meaningless. It’s a tone that we heard recently when Roxas spoke about inspecting 300,000 (count that!) factories for compliance with fire safety standards. (Philstar.com, 3 June)
As with Escudero’s sing-song, and Poe’s trapo tone, Roxas needs to stop sounding like he’s always at a campaign sortie, imploring people to listen to him, he’s got something important to say.
Utang na loob might already put him on top of the President’s list, but that will not be equal to any votes.
Media is king
I recently happened upon our copy of the 1998 edition of Chay Hofileña’s book News For Sale published by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), and it could only be a serendipitous find. Because it reminds me of how much power the media holds during election period, and how much money utang na loob can go around, fueling a system of media irresponsibility and complicity.
It is not to say that the media remains the same, but certainly it is to blame for what trends online, what is given space on the front page, if not who deserves to be on the headlines. And while what we have been treated to is the he-said-she-said between Duterte and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, between Congressman Tiangco and Senator Poe, between VP Binay and his growing number of critics, the media has chosen to do little, or no stories at all, on more important things.
The 397 contractual workers on strike at the Tanduay Cabuyao plant and the crisis of contractual labor across different industries. Congress approving on second reading changing the Constitution to allow 100 percent foreign ownership of land, resources and key industries. The question of peace in Mindanao. The President signing EO 183 creating the Negros Island Region. The President agreeing to craft a Visiting Forces Agreement with Japan. The ill-planned K to 12 implementation that has wreaked havoc on students’, parents’ and teachers’ lives. The slew of tuition increase that has disenfranchised more students. China and the fight for Scarborough Shoal.
One could go on and on. But alas, media, mainstream and otherwise, online and elsewhere, is more interested in who Poe’s parents are. The better to influence the next survey numbers, maybe?
That would come as no surprise.