• Running for office, no longer easy

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    THE late comedian Dolphy’s witty rebuttal, when asked if he intended one day to run for any elective position, was: “Madaling tumakbo, eh paano kung manalo?!” (It’s easy to run but what if you win?!).

    This needs a qualifier nowadays.

    Yes, anybody who is qualified can easily run for a public post. Based on the Constitution, such qualifications are minimal.

    For instance, for a Philippine senator one only has to be a natural born citizen of the Philippines, at least 35 years old on the day of the election, able to read and write, a registered voter and a resident of the country for not less than two years immediately preceding the day of the election.

    You don’t even need to be a lawyer or a college graduate to be a senator or legislator, and at least one senator has openly admitted he cannot even converse in English.

    Yes, it is easy to run, I mean, to file your candidacy and aspire for a public post.

    But to run with an actual shot at winning? This is very hard today.

    I was a senator for two terms, from 1987 to 1992 and from 1992 to 1998. Every single election since the time I have been out of politics there has been no lack of parties inviting me to be on their senatorial ticket.

    But times have changed. The game has changed. Politics has changed. Campaigning has changed. Everything has changed.

    There was a time when having a surname like Magsaysay, for instance, would guarantee a victory in an election. But in the last election, both Magsaysays (Jun and Mitos) failed to get a Senate seat.

    When I ran in 1987 under the Cory ticket (Cory Aquino’s senatorial lineup where all but two—aside from Juan Ponce Enrile and Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada—captured the Senate seats) I did not even have one single TV ad.

    I did not have TV ads in 1992 either and yet I won my second Senate term, ranking second among the re-electionist senators and fourth overall.

    Such victories (without TV ads) are perhaps next to impossible nowadays. Let me qualify that further. Perhaps such political campaigns altogether—campaigns where you don’t spend an exorbitant amount of money—can no longer result in victories.

    Indeed, the run-up to next year’s election has the makings of being the most expensive campaign in Philippine political history, just basing it on the sheer volume of TV ads we are already seeing from candidates.

    At close to P500,000 per primetime spot per candidate, and this early? Just do the numbers.

    The rise of multimillion peso campaigns has taken the total spending on political and so-called advocacy advertising to over P3 billion in the last election. It will most probably be more in 2016 since it is a presidential election.

    This kind of spending changes politics.

    I am getting offers again for another run at the Senate. But as always, the primary consideration is the astounding cost of mounting a decent campaign, one that has a real shot at winning.

    The fact that only 12 slots are available in the Senate makes the competition tighter, fiercer, more expensive. (When the Senate was restored by the 1987 Constitution, the 24 senators who were elected in 1987 served until 1992. In 1992 the candidates for the Senate obtaining the 12 highest number of votes served until 1998, while the next 12 served until 1995. Thereafter, each senator elected serves the full 6 years. Senators serve a 6-year tenure per term with a maximum of two consecutive terms, with half of the senators elected every three years to ensure that the Senate is maintained as a continuous body. At least that’s the law’s intention.)

    So will I give in? Run for the sake of running?

    I’ve heard it said that people have to be a little crazy to run for public office. I’ve had my share of elections and I can tell you, I see the point.

    You spend a lot of money, campaign like crazy, run yourself ragged going around the country, you get criticized for public consumption, and in the off chance that you win, you inherit a ton of problems (if you win as president then the whole weight of the nation’s problems are now on your shoulders).

    And if you are not a crook, there is no way you can ever recoup your investment. You just threw your savings out the window all for the possibility of serving a fickle public who tend to blame you for everything that is wrong with their existence.

    So crazy? Sure. I get it.

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