Politics and the soap opera


The best time to watch television is during primetime, when the soap operas are showing and you get a taste of the breadth and scope of political advertising, nine months before the 2016 elections.

The non-campaign advertisements that are shown during this time reveal the kind of viewership these soaps have of course, and one can’t help but be glad for Pangako Sa’yo and On The Wings Of Love on ABS-CBN 2, Beautiful Strangers and My Faithful Husband on GMA 7. One imagines how many people these soaps employ (even if contractually), and ads mean a longer stretch of work for all of them.

It is of course also a reminder of the kind of market our politicians and politico-wannabes are trying to get on their side, maybe the same market that’s surveyed come survey season?

Timing is everything
If there’s anything one has learned both about the soap opera and local politics, it’s that timing is everything, and there are no coincidences.

Just as the soap opera is controlled by the powers-that-be of networks that seek to get the most mileage for its actors and the most advertisers for its shows, so are local politics dictated upon by selfish interests, the task of “swaying public opinion,” and getting as much media mileage as possible.

The past week for example, we were treated to a gamut of issues and names. There’s the criticism against Senator Bongbong Marcos’s version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and in effect the Senator’s being Ferdinand Marcos’s son. The return to the Senate Hearings against Vice President Jejomar Binay, this time on the Nancy Drew mystery of the ghost senior citizens, starring Senators Antonio Trillanes, Alan Peter Cayetano and Koko Pimentel. The birthday of Fernando Poe Jr., and the mother hen Susan Roces turning defensive for her daughter Senator Grace. VP Binay allegedly telling an audience of voters to take the money they might be paid for their votes, but vote only for the candidates they believe in.

The death anniversary of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and the Liberal Party mileage in his name. The death anniversary of Ninoy Aquino and the Liberal Party mileage in his name.

One knows all these are deliberate. Which makes one wonder when exactly survey season is. Is it any time soon? Because then this will be a measure of how our politicos are playing with these surveys, knowing full well that its results are not so much a measure of how close they are to winning the elections, as it is a way to sway public opinion in their favor. It will be interesting to see what those survey results reveal as far as which kind of media mileage is most effective in getting people’s attention.

The complicit media
But of course media can only be complicit, and it is obvious in specific instances.

Say the fact that the traffic crisis, the bulok MRT, and the inefficient airports are rarely brought up in relation to Presidential candidate Mar Roxas’s stint as secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC). Say the lack of Binay ads on TV – at least over primetime – like the big networks have decided that they will not show advertisements of the VP, nor talk about whatever it is he’s doing as he goes around the country. Compare that to the kind of mileage the Interior Secretary Roxas gets when he’s doing his job with the DILG, turning over firetrucks and whatever else, which becomes fodder for his campaign.

For sure there is nothing innocent about the people that one sees in between watching Pangayo Sa’Yo. It cannot be a coincidence that I see PhilHealth director Risa Hontiveros and Department of Health Secretary Janet Garin, in non-campaign ads speaking for the government offices they represent.

When Hontiveros’s ad shows her speaking to the sick and hugging their children, one knows this has got to be a campaign ad. When she says in the end: “Risa Hontiveros po, Happy Pinoy, Happy Pinas!” one almost can’t believe that they’re even pretending this is no campaign.

They take us for fools, don’t they?

The more shameless, the better
And then there’s Markang Villar, which takes from the infamous paglangoy sa dagat ng basura of Manny Villar, and reimagines that same informal settlement celebrating the arrival of the next generation Villar, Mark. We don’t know Mark from Adam, but who cares.

There’s Senator Marcos’ ad, with a catchy tune (talbog ang Matuwid na Daan tribute song ni Noel Cabangon), and the slogan “Ilabas Ang Galing ng Pilipino: Tayo Tayo!” It has him going around a community, and taking selfies with students and teachers, as well as uh … farmers.

What has not made TV, but which I truly love, is the non-campaign advertisement of Congressman Roman Romulo, which promotes his Iskolar ng Bayan Law. It’s a two-minute comedy film portraying an impoverished family on absurd high-drama mode, who calls out into the abyss: “Walang pag-asaaaaa!” And suddenly Mr. R. appears like a superhero, talking about this law and how this family can count on it. Complete with superhero music and graphics to boot, one wonders if this strategy will get Romulo any votes.

Or is this merely a matter of mileage? One wouldn’t be surprised.

#AlDub, Sotto, some plagiarism on the side
This is why I can’t believe that people can analyze and celebrate the #AlDub Kalyeserye without equating it with the politics of Senator Tito Sotto. Certainly we must know of how TVJ is in control of what happens on Eat Bulaga? That while the magic of #AlDub in the beginning was its spontaneity, at this point in time it is nothing but manufactured dramedy?

And that in the end, it is Senator Sotto and his conservative views of the world that will win. Anyone who does not see this hasn’t been watching enough of Eat Bulaga all these years.

Probably the only thing worse than the Sotto-#AlDub combination might be the Mar Roxas website refusing to acknowledge that its graphics hew too closely to Angela Stuart-Santiago’s book cover for EDSA Uno Dos Tres (2013), with art by GU Stuart and Mervin Malonzo.

It makes you wonder how plagiarism figures in matuwid na daan, and whether or not that should count as a form of corruption. Or maybe they were inspired by another art work? Maybe they think this is not owned solely by the artists for the EDSA Uno cover?

For people who spend so much money on campaign ads, one would think they can afford someone who will at least do proper acknowledgments. Though maybe that’s far from being a priority so close to the elections.


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  1. Philip dela Cruz on

    For whatever it is worth, as a layman, I have not given plagiarism that much importance especially if the supposed act is not that apparent. I always felt that anything published or shared with the public had served its purpose for the creator. Is it necessary that the creator further expect acknowledgement for anything that seemingly comes close to his/her creation? It is my personal opinion that everything we all create is a product of what we have been introduced to in the past, meaning influence from others as well. We possibly just made some minor or major modifications as we felt appropriate for our respective taste. In that context, why is there a need for an eternal acknowledgement? Shouldn’t a creator just be satisfied that whatever he/she created inspired further use of the concept or idea? Just a personal opinion from a layman.

    • Amnata Pundit on

      My sentiments exactly, just do it and expect nothing in return. Let the creator decide whether or not you deserve something for it..