Not a democracy, but celebrity rule


President Aquino’s disclosure that he intends to tap Senator Grace Poe as his and the Liberal Party’s presidential or vice-presidential candidate in the 2016 elections wasn’t at all surprising.

His first choice, Mar Roxas hasn’t, as it is usually put, been “rating well in the polls,” registering pathetic single-digit popularity scores.

And if he doesn’t control the next administration, Aquino is likely to end up in jail, what with such obvious anomalies under his term as the P157 billion Disbursement Allocation Program (DAP), which was essentially his hijacking of funds for purposes other than those authorized by Congress.

Aquino has issued about 5,000 SAROs (Special Allotment Release Orders) for purposes of payments unauthorized by the appropriations law, which could translate to that number of separate charges of technical malversation, and taken as a whole, of plunder.

If the next President isn’t his puppet, Aquino at best could spend his life in hearings at the Sandiganbayan, and at worst inside a prison cell. He himself and his sister, indeed, have shown some signs of anxiety over the possibility of Aquino ending up in jail.

It was a psychological slip of the tongue, revealing his deepest fears when he told an audience of Filipinos in Chicago a few days ago: “I’m the only politician in my family’s generation, I might be next [to be jailed]. Every generation in the family, someone gets jailed.”

Tapping Poe, who has zoomed up in popularity polls, for the presidency would be an appealing plan for Aquino. Right now, the talk is for Poe to run for the vice-presidency on the assumption her popularity would lift that of Roxas somehow, just enough — in a four or even five-corner fight — for the tremendous resources of this administration to buy off the required slim margins for victory.

Celebrity, not people, power: Poe’s campaign ad; Below, Congressman Pacquiao.

Celebrity, not people, power: Poe’s campaign ad; Below, Congressman Pacquiao.

For all the noble talk of striving for peace in Mindanao, the enactment of the BBL, as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has demanded, is really intended to ensure the delivery of Muslim Mindanao votes to whoever Aquino anoints.

Poe’s rise to the heights of our political firmament in just a few short years and the boost she will get as Aquino’s presidential or vice-presidential candidate mean another episode of further degrading the institution we still call “democracy.”

A real democracy involves at the very least the following:

Voters choose a ruler who, at least, has some track record of leadership or skills to govern, and a heart to serve;

They have access to information that allows them to fairly evaluate whether a candidate possesses such qualities;

Candidates who explain to voters what they stand for, what they will do in concrete terms once elected to office;

Competent, professional media to point out if they are lying or not, to help citizens evaluate if candidates are what they profess to be.

The last two items would show how far we’ve moved away from real democracy.

Despite the strength of the elite during this period, the two decades – the ‘50s and ‘60s – would seem to be an era during which we were moving, even if just inches perhaps, toward what a democracy should be. The presidents of this era — Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia, Macapagal, and Marcos — despite their many faults, were people who went, so to speak, through the political wringer so their mettle could be tested.

The two political parties, the Liberal and the Nacionalista parties, despite regular turncoatism among its ranks, functioned, so to speak, as filters to determine their best leaders. The Senate at that period produced intellectual giants such as Salonga, Tanada, Diokno, Kalaw-Katigbak, Pelaez, Marcos, Aquino Sr., Puyat, Roxas, Recto, Osias. Even the Muslims had a very competent senator, Salipada Pendatun.

The end of the strongman rule, though, didn’t mean the start of our journey toward real democracy.

Democracy in the post-Marcos era in our country has been more and more the rule not by competent leaders, but by celebrities, defined as people who achieve fame not only because of the entertainment world but as a result of a powerful media. That fuzzy term, but politically powerful attribute, “name recall” has become the most important factor for electing our leaders.

Perhaps, she or we, didn’t have a choice, but the rise to the presidency of Corazon Aquino, scion of a wealthy clan and a housewife all her working life, was a major pillar in the construction of this new rule-by-celebrities.

Fernando Poe, Jr. spent his entire life making movies, and seemed to hate involvement in politics and any social issue. Yet he nearly won as President because of his celebrity status, his name recall. Filipinos could not distinguish between his movie persona as “Panday” and FPJ, the beer guzzler.

Cory’s son, Ninoy, had a dismal track record as congressman and senator, a feature that should have by reason disqualified him from being President. Yet he won, by sheer name recall. Perhaps, Filipinos’ superstition or the philosophical basis of Christianity – the belief in “essences” – enforced by media and the Church, explains much of the votes for Aquino.

I remember one headline reflecting such worldview, quoting a bishop during the elections: “The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.” That’s biblical nonsense.

Senator Poe seems to me a decent and intelligent person; certainly better than most of the senators now. But she spent most of her working life as an immigrant in the US, working, according to her official website, as a “ teacher, a product liaison officer, and a product manager.”

She doesn’t seem to be too proud of her working experience in the US, as neither her website nor the Senate databank shows what exactly was the nature and scope of her job in the US, although I remember she worked for some years in a US government agency in a clerical or mid-level job. She has to settle once and for all whether she got to be a US citizen during her stay there for decades. She would be a nationalist of the highest caliber if she hadn’t, but I doubt that.

She looks dignified and honest, even comely, as a Vice President and even a President.

But I really can’t find in my rationality any justification why her three-year stint as head of the movie and television censors board and two years as senator qualify her occupying those highest posts of the land.

Her supporters, of course, would say it’s a matter of faith. They may even use the Noynoy line of the “fruit-not-falling-far from-the-tree.” The Panday’s princess?

But the Grace phenomenon is nothing but celebrity politics, and more and more we are moving to the era of the rule of celebrities.

Even the opposition — or what some wise guys in the Congress call the “Opo” positions — had been floating the idea of “pambansang kamao” Manny Pacquiao as vice president.

“People Power” is such a huge Filipino myth. The reality is celebrity power.

What kind of democracy have we become?
FB: Bobi Tiglao


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  1. emmanuel mallari on

    gone are the days of diokno, salonga, tanada, kalaw, etc. the political scene in our country is going down the drain, the gutter (if I may say) and it was hasten by the current occupants seating in malacanang.

  2. Amnata Pundit on

    If surveys and elections in this country are far from honest, then the question is why doesn’t the hand that controls both the surveys and the elections like Mar Roxas? What is it about him that turn the Yellows off? This should be the subject of a deep investigation. I have my own theories but thats for another time.

  3. David C. Martinez on

    We remain what we’ve always been: a DINO. A democracy in name only.

  4. Sinasamantala ng mga LP o NP man ang kabobohan ng mga BOBOTANTE!! Kaya patungo din sa kabobohan ang landas ng pinas… Mabuhay ang mga FILIPINO politician at FILIPINO Media… taga tulak sa Pinas papuntang bangin!!

  5. Another neophyte to be puppeterized by the unholy king makers lurking in the dark of pseudo government…admit it people these politcos are mere tools of the old filthy rich oligarchs. They (politicos) crow a little against these filthy rich and they will be cowed by tons of money… If Ms. Grace Poe is not in the take and will never take any advantage of the Pres position then maybe she is the answer to all our prayers. Maybe……..

  6. So can anyone care explain to me why comments that challenge the views of the article are moderated out? Cherry-picking your comments goes against some of the basic points this article makes.

    In fact a quick browse at the comment section indeed shows this cherry-picking habit. There’s absolutely no point in entering into any kind of discussion in this manilatimes because it is basically not encouraged. In fact it is discouraged by way of moderation.

    But hey, this will be my last time I visit this manilatimes, because having a one-side point of view is just silly.

  7. Justaskingseriously on

    Judge me all you want. I find no justification for your complaint. Democracy would not be democracy if certain aspects are excluded from the democratic dynamics. Call it celebrity rule or celebritocracy to make it sound more like a valid rule, because it is valid if the voters who are the demos in a true democracy decide so. Who are you, but just a columnist to decide for the rest of the demos, the hoi poloi?

    Commenters may call you Ambassador, but I have no idea why, when in fact you are an ex-ambassador. Unless you issue a written manifesto like Kit Tatad did, no one would really have any idea about you except what you write or how you express what you write. I have expressed my admiration for your investigative talent, but this time, I am puzzled why you could not even ask Grace Poe to provide answers to your questions about her. You prefer to remain with your doubts and unabashedly share with us that you have hit an impenetrable wall for lack of trying.

    Your frustration is understandable. But to put it in writing is rather undiplomatic. It is particularly undiplomatic to pretend to know the foundation of christianity which according to you is a philosophy. You could not be more off the mark. All philosophy can shed on christianity is the assurance that the power of natural reason cannot find any contradiction in the tenets of christianity, be it historical or be it the deepest mystery about the Godhead. But that is your prerogative to express yourself — thanks to the de facto democracy or even celebritocracy,

    It is a great asset for any candidate to possess or project charisma. It is a rare gift. If you call it celebrity rule, so be it. It is still democracy as long as the votes are counted properly and honestly.

  8. Why waste your time discussing who will be our next leader. Election is a sham, perpetuated by an interest group just to show that we are free to choose our own leader. Dont blame the media. Media, like survey & PCOS is only a tool that these group are using to protect their interest.

  9. It is best for the country if Sen. Grace Poe will tandem as vice presidential candidate of VP Binay. She should not let herself to be used by the “elitist yellow trapoliticos”. She is better off with populist vice president Binay. Mabuhay ang bayan!

  10. the saying ‘the fruit does not fall far from the tree” does not apply to grace poe. she is not the daughter of fpj. she was adopted. dna wise, she does not have any of fpj. so i find it funny that she use fpj as her main campaign theme. sa dami ng nag praise sa kanya sa mamasapano massacre investigation, i believe that she did not ask the hard questions to answer the question who gave the stand down order or was there really a stand down order or why it took almost the whole day to send reinforcements that turned out to be cadaver recovery team. she obviously was trying to protect boy sisi or she does not know how to investigate. opinion lang ito.

  11. kumander flower on

    hind kasalan ni senador grace poe, kung naging sikat na aktor ang tatay niya. basehan natin siya sa kanyang sariling “qualifications”, “performance” at pagmamahal sa bayan.

  12. Gone are those golden years when the country had a “wide pool” of national leaders who were competing their talents, honesty, integrity and qualifications against each other to gain as the standard bearer of each other’s party leader to run for the top post of the land, the Presidency! They were the Recto, Laurel, Tanada, Osias, Garcia, Quirino, Macapagal, Marcos, Pendatun, Diokno, Paredes, who had made names for themselves as visionary lawmakers, nationalist advocates and debaters and orators in defending their respective ideology, either in the halls of Congress or outside via the media. Unlike now, the media then was just a vehicle to make one’s opinion and stand on an issue known through out the nation and NOT the media itself spinning and creating the “politician’s image” as a forceful advocate or leader for his electability. The Media was then a springboard to become famous or infamous by the politician’s behavior or spoken advocacy. Back then “celebrity status” was not a good mix for electability but only for the movie box office marketing, after all no celebrity dared threw themselves into politics, until the ” time when Rogelio delaRosa” the popular movie actor challenge his brother-in-law, Diosdado Macapagal to the Liberal Party convention for the Presidency. But because Macapagal was much, much more qualified to be President, as Congressman, Senator and bar topnother, De la Rosa gave way but later became Ambassador in one of the Asian country. Notwithstanding Dela Rosa ‘s celebrity status, it did not give him enough popular support among the.masses, as the electorate rightfully chose and actually elected Macapgal as President. True to his electoral promise, Mcapagal worked for the passage of Land Reform Act.
    In short, the Media and Celibrity status did not, at the time dictated the elevted leaders, but electorate relied more on the proven qualifications, competence, platform or Program of government and sincerity of the candidate to carry them out when elected.
    The two-party system then (Nationalista and Liberal Party) and any independent party, if a disgruntled candidate chose to launch as his own) were more transparent and honest way to choose a candidate, not to mention the festive moods the convention creates, since before the main convention the candidates nominees for each party were already laying down their credentials and qualifications and platform of government, for which the electorate may vote for. Now the rules of utilizing media and Celibrity status to project one’s Political image for electability have been substantially changed making the media and celebrity status as principal and main vehicle and focus that projects acandidate electability and NOT the real credentials of the person for evaluation by the voters. Today the combination of “media and celebrity” equals political electability even if the person may be less qualified for the position since the media manipulates and capitalizes on the popularity of the person in his field (like in movie REVILLA, Sotto, Estradas, FPJ,; in sports boxing, basketball, Web, Jaworski, Pacquiao) and project it as a form of leadership in community and national scenes. In short the competence and leadership, judgmental qualifications are subordinated to a less desirable value and level needed in a political leadership.
    In order to produce a “true” competent and patriotic national leadership: firstly, the Media must not let itself be used by moneyed and unscrupulous people who merely craves for political power but not to serve public office with honesty and personal sacrifice and dedication; and secondly, electorate must avoid electing celebrity people as they tend to be inept manager and not people oriented and community server; and thirdly, the person running for any position must have “proven” personal integrity, competent intelligence, courage to go against the mainstream to upheld his own principles (like favoring capital punishment abhorred by religious groups, if it will eliminate heinous crimes), and substantial experience in the political arena where political compromises occurs for a targeted agenda for the benefit of the nation.
    Without these three above requirements for national leadership, the Philippine politics will always be ruled by the Media and Celibrity popularity leadership which does not augurs well to a potential sterling national governance. As the poverty conditions dominates, unemployment rises, commodity prices spiraling and criminalistics rising, only the POOR electorate will suffer more in the hands of “media-made and celebrity politicians. Eventually, democracy is in danger of just an artificial democratic apparatus of government.

    • Media also contributed to the deterioration as they support candidates the feel would support their business interests. Ours needs an overhaul just like a broken engine. This started with the cory constitution allowing anybody to run which resulted in mediocre and un-qualified leaders we have today. We are much better before than now.

  13. From among the many aspiring presidents, the qualifications of Grace Poe are significant in terms of education, exposure and most of all integrity. She has that decisiveness to do what is right even against so many lawmakers and the popular beliefs. Here is a lady who could face the world with head uphigh without any tincture of dishonesty and distrustfulness. Her celebrity status as some will say, is only incidental in serving the country.

    • She won as a celebrity (Poe name recognition)’ not due to her education and experience which she have none. Her pedigree and past is even a mystery and if she decides to run all these family tree will be the talk of the town. Of course, it has nothing to do with her qualifications which she has none. Of course she is honest and untainted by corruption since she is new in the game of politics survival. She seems to promote the “poor” class which is only common among traditional and no try politicians. Let us drop Grave Poe for the Presidency coz she is not truly qualified, educationally and leadership-wise for her principle or ideology is not tested yet.

  14. Binay is my guy , they say he is corrupt but those were unproven allegations
    Abnoy pnoy is clearly clean & righteous not corrupt , Grace Poe may be good
    But is unproven , mar roxas , house speaker belmonte and franklin drilon the little piggy they are not corrupt , where did drilon put the 100 million from DAP
    His province must flowing with projects (ghost projects) . Oh by the way when
    The Great US of A took over Iraq the US government have recontruction projects worth billions of dollars , But the General Accounting Office states that around 60 to 70 billions were un accounted for , where did it go ? Ghost projects . Our choice will be A Dumb and dumber . Walang humAwak nang palayok ang hindi na ulingan .

    • BINAY should run in Muntinlupa Bilibid Prison as the inmates President, not for the Nation. That corruption is Binay expertise only makes him qualified to be in Muntinlupa Prison President with wife Elinita, as BP and JUN Zjun BINAY as Prison “Mayor”. And Sen Binsy as Chef and Congresswoman BINAY as the Prison Administrator. Nice Family a Dynasty in Muntinlupa Bilibid Prison! Ha ha ha the deserve their positions there!

  15. Leodegardo Pruna on

    What kind of a democracy have we become? A “democrazy” since EDSA !. And that is very clear, look at what we are in now, confusion left and right. God bless the Philippines.

  16. Yes, I agree that since the end of the Marcos era, names have been more meaningful that competence. EDSA seems to be a low point in the Philippines. Law and order was thrown out of the window and all kinds of unsavory people have come forth to enrich themselves.

  17. Kale Alaskador on

    We need a strongman to save the Philippines from self-destructing!

    The Philippines have been gifted with natural resources and intelligent people. However, these have been corrupted by the people’s own neglect! There is no way we can change the political structure of the Philippines. We sorely need somebody to discipline the more than 100 million Filipinos!

    With more than 100 million people, can’t have at least a handful of honest governors of the government?

    It is time to change.

  18. What the philippines lacks are positive role-models – at least ones who gain exposure – and who establish a benchmark of excellence and endeavour.
    Instead it is a race to the bottom, and an incestuous closed shop in politics, media, entertainment, and sport.
    Where there is publicity to be gained, or easy money to be made, politicians will have a finger in the pie, amongst other things.
    The anti-intellectuals have taken over the asylum.
    Yesterdays men are the barrier to tomorrows world.
    A new philippines needs new thinking.

  19. P.Akialamiro on

    I am not biased against the celebrity status of many who run for political positions in the Philippines, for many of them are ‘qualified’. If we consider Sen. Poe to be qualified to be Vice-President or President of the Republic, is she all we, Filipinos, got? Is she all we deserve? As mentioned, any of the caliber of Tanada, Pelaez, Osias, Sumulong, Padilla, Tolentino, etc., or, Gibo Teodoro?

    We are talking here of not only a leader, but also one who will represent the country in international fora on national, international issues or crisis and conflicts of interests. It’s about time that every qualified candidates should be drummed up and encouraged to run for major political national legislative and executive positions. One, majority of Filipinos are confident to accept, work for and vote for despite the lack of the usual logistics.

    It’s now or never that everyone should be more serious in the selection of candidates, lest we’ll be the laughingstock in all of Asia and of the world. We now are reaping the negative effects of our emotional voting in the recent years.

    Present things or goings-on in the country are proving to be disappointing and depressing to the point that many compatriots do not think of the country as worth going back to.

  20. Grace Poe may have the name of a celebrity (her father) but I think she is much better as next president than Binay & his dynasty & corrupt practices….

  21. The Philippines aims for mediocrity, but even then still falls short.

    3rd world leaders and politicians will always perpetuate 3rd world performance, and be the single greatest obstacle to progress and prosperity. It separates the winners from losers, and will likely result in the Philippines being the Greece of ASEAN in the long term.
    Their sheer lack of achievement and intellectual prowess should give people a clue as to their shortcomings, but the country must have an inherently masochistic electorate to continue to self-flagellate every 6 years.

    “Popularity should be no scale for the election of politicians. If it would depend on popularity, Donald Duck and The Muppets would take seats in the Senate”
    Orson Welles

  22. Mr Tiglao is right . Perhaps the feeling is mutual about what has become to our country because for decades we have been ruled by celebrities, feudal and political dynasties. We are living very poor in a very rich country. But we keep hope over despair, that one day a true leader will rise and rebuild the structural and moral ruins
    of our society. Searching for a true leader is a daunting task ahead but for now the
    poitical engines have started to warm up and the current choice but still open I think
    to other aspiring leader are Grace Poe, belong to a celebrity family, who have learn
    observing the law while living in the US, proven so far as a competent Senator. And
    Jojo Binay belong to a political dynasty an achiver as the former Mayor of Makati and is becoming a nightmare to the current politica establishment.
    Grace Poe strenght will be guided by the principle “ang kakambal ng kasinungaligan ay magnanakaw”. but hey, isn’t it some members of the Liberal Party have been part in cheating FPJ in congress?
    Jojo Binay strenght will be how he wiggles those corruption charges against him;
    to put Binay behind bars is sweet music for him as he can capitlize on it as being oppressed..
    But hey, Binay belong to a political dynasty.
    What choice do we have……

    • The rose among the thorns in 2016 presidential election and how you malign the capability of Sen Grace Poe to lead us all as incoming president in 2016 will be witnessed by all of us when all the candidates submit to a series of presidential debates to be witnessed live by our countrymen and in living TV color.

  23. Tony Javier on

    What is wrong with celebrity power? with people power? as long as the person elected is competent to act, honest and teachable the right way, we have a good person for a leader. Do we need a tra-po, a thief, a powerful business pro who adores nothing but his money and friends, to lead us? Common! If the people like Grace Poe to be their president, who are you by the way to obstruct that wish, desire, clamore!

  24. Blame all the politicians of where we are today. Certainly, not the people. Of course, we can never have “good” Filipino politicians like before. So, what else is new? We are doomed in the years to come!

  25. Bobotante rules in the Philippine politics..
    Kaya naman bola bola gimmick ang tactica ng mga politician ma LP o ma NP man – kasi bobotante rules in the Philippines and they are the majority (karamihan nasa poor sector).

    On the other hand we have the bright and rich Filipinos but unluckily they are F….COWARD!!. Takot kalabanin ang kabobohan ng mga bobotante (masama kasi pumatol at frankahin ang mga mahihirap – yan turo ng simbahan).

    In short hopeless Philippines – hangat mahilig tayo sa drama!!!…

  26. sonny dela cruz on

    But you did not mentioned the root causes of celebrity’s success in the political arena, it is in the “MEDIA,” just like you. Never mentioned any good leader to be good leader comes 2016, like RICHARD J. GORDON, GIBO TEODORO, BAYANI FERNANDO, MIRIAM SANTIAGO and maybe there’ll be more but what you are mentioning are neophytes and still in the process of learning how to run a government. Being president is not a “JOKE”, every Filipinos has the responsibility to choose the right person with good vision for the country but they need guidance and should come first from the “MEDIA”. Now is the most critical point of selecting a very qualified, dignified, knowledgeable, with vision leader. The Philippines is facing external and domestic problems bigger than the previous administrations. No. 1 is poverty and hunger and secondly the corruption problems that becomes an institution on every new politicians in the Philippine congress, the judiciary and most of all the Executive branch together with its departments. Mr. Tiglao, I respect you as a very good journalist but always put in mind whatever you are saying is to give more importance to any person/persons who can lead for a better Philippines. Thank you.

  27. Rogelio C. Lim on

    Si Poe at Pacquio ay hindi na kailangan mag-ikot sa lahat ng lugar ng Pilipinas para ipaliwanag ang kanilang plataporma. Ang gagawin lamang ni Poe ay magpalabas ng mga pelikula ni Panday sa plaza ng bawat bayan at mananalo na siya. Ganoon din ang gagawin ni Pacquiao na magpalabas din ng mga laban niya sa plaza. Ganoon ang ginawa ni Fernando Poe at Joseph Estrada kaya maraming bumoto sa kanila.

    At may Smartmatic/PCOS machines pa–kung hindi tatanggalin ni bagong Comelec Bossing Andy.

  28. Si Aquino ay umaaktong grandmaster,at nakaharap sa chess board,simula sa doj,ombudsmen,coa,supreme court, PNP,army at sa mambabatas as bishop at ngayon ay si Poe as a queen!lahat ay na iposisyon na niya sa kanyang depensa sa ano mang gagawin atake ng kanyang mga kalaban!
    Malamang Maraming madidismaya ang mga umaasa na maipakulong nila si Aquino,sa ganitong nakahandang depensa na itinatayo ni grandmaster Aquino-,
    Sana may roong mga grupo na dapat sumira,sa mga binabalak ng yellow cult,Hindi masisingil ng bayan ang lahat ng kapalpakan ni Aquino kapag nailagay sa puesto ang kontrolado niya at tatanaw ng utang Na loob!

  29. The kind of democracy that we came to be is a joke. edsa was a joke. Other nations are laughing at us. Whenever I see videos of people in edsa from almost 30 years ago I can’t help but feel sad how we became a Nation of suckers.

  30. Very well written, based on facts and truth. Heard along the grapevine that Grace Poe was a mere office worker in the U.S. and nothing is very clear about her family and husband, Folks must start researching about the Grace P. Lamzanares or what family name to include her husband to know who they really are. Of course Susan Roces knows who she really is. Let us, the public, stop politicians to fool us by giving false background resumes coming from these politicians themselves. Let us not allow another Mar Roxas, who was telling folks that he finished MBA from Wharton in the U.S. and Bongbong Marcos, claiming that he finished Masters in Oxford, England but only pulling our leg because he did not. For sure there are sitting government workrs, both elected and appointed with fake bio-datas.

    • You cannot discredit a feisty Iron Lady in the making in the person of Sen. Grace Poe since you do not know what fiber she is made of compared to others who are unearthed as perennial trapos and dynastically inclined families of trapos?

  31. Nancy Bulok Cake on

    As long as Roxas and Poe are not corrupt the majority of the Filipinos will vote for them.