We all have heard that the early bird gets the worm, and it is apparent that presidentiables and politicos are taking this very seriously. Hence, not surprisingly, we now find ourselves in the longest campaign season leading to 2010. For come to think of it, the campaigning of these presidentiables actually started as early as 2007, during the mid-term elections. It is all clearer now that for those who ran for the senate, the goal really was not to be elected senator, but to use the position to get elected for higher office.
Thanks to politicos taking advantage of legal loopholes, the 90-day campaign period set by the law has been degraded into a ridiculous formality. Just turn on the TV. You will see politicos poorly simulating news bulletins, endorsing beauty products, food supplements, real estate companies, instant noodles, etc.
After all, how could the Commission on Elections run after personalities who have not been officially declared as candidates? The politicos themselves claim that they’re not campaigning, but just airing their advocacies, which is part of their freedom of expression.
One presidentiable once said very blatantly: there’s nothing illegal about it. Translation: Who needs delicadeza if what I’m doing is legal anyway?
Thankfully, Filipino voters are wiser now. And yes, Filipino voters still value delicadeza. They are more discerning. They can clearly see through “legal electioneering”. And voters are not taking any kind of electioneering sitting down.
One such object of negative reactions is the latest ad of Senator Mar Roxas. A former Trade and Industry Secretary, he topped the 2004 polls thanks to his “Mr. Palengke” image. His latest ad, just less than a year before campaign season legally begins, packages himself as “Mr. Pedicab”.
The reactions of netizens are far from what Roxas’ camp would desire. Many say that his latest commercial is “trying hard”. Some brand it as “cheap.” Others would even hurl the very same invectives Roxas blurted out at an anti-charter change rally last year. Another individual on multiply even suggests that Mar’s campaign manager should be fired for the blunder.
The funniest and most intriguing comment came from a friend I was conversing with the other day: Ang laki-laking tao ni Mar Roxas. Bakit naman bata ang pinag-padyak niya ng pedicab? Hindi ba child labor ang ginagawa niya?
Well, if enhancing public awareness was the intention of Mar’s camp, then they may have achieved it. But of course, awareness does not necessarily translate into votes. It is no laughing matter when a person or group spoofs your ad, such as the one below, which I saw on youtube. Well, I hope that those who created this spoof don’t get sued or harassed by anyone. Let me post it here for your evaluation.
It is apparent that Roxas’ team is desperately looking for an image that would click with the audience and excite them as much as in 2004. He cannot very much rely anymore on his Mr. Palengke image. Gasgas na ang Mr. Palengke.
But Filipino voters have already wisened up. They are now waiting to hear for platform, programs. They are looking at actual accomplishments. Voters would like to hear of these at the proper time and forum.
Insofar as branding is concerned, those who have been advertising early have only been successful in branding themselves as certified trapos. I am not saying that the presidentiables did not achieve anything. But they do have a responsibility to help people vote wisely. And that is by informing viewers of their platform at the right time and venue.
Interestingly, the latest Pulse Asia survey on presidentiables so far shows dipping numbers for of Roxas, Loren Legarda, and Manny Villar, whose ads are really all over television. Not to mention that they have been very vocal in almost all, if not all recent controversies. Why then, are their numbers dropping? Loren used to top surveys, especially after she topped the senatorial race in 2007. At least, she would fight neck-to-neck with Vice President Noli De Castro.
A more comprehensive study will need to be made for De Castro. De Castro has been very visible too. But his ads are institutional, for they promote Pag-IBIG Fund. They are not campaign ads poorly masquerading as something else, although of course, these ads undoubtedly help De Castro. And compared to other candidates (with the exception of Legarda), he has at least 15 years of credibility with the large chunk of voters, thanks to his being a “kabayan”. His opponents don’t have that same kind of credibility. De Castro’s approval ratings really didn’t go down, even if he chose to stay by the side of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, following the Hello Garci scandal in 2005.
Still, the fact that politicos are resorting to ads that focus more on packaging and branding candidates is a cause for continued concern. Since campaign teams have done their voter research, it certainly shows that there are still voters out there who may be easily deceived by ads. And that is the challenge for organizations promoting the value of voting wisely. It’s sad, but there are still voters who expect politicians to be just entertaining more than being actually capable of doing the job.
Election laws must be reviewed if we truly wish to get rid of electioneering. Loopholes must be fixed. Of course, this is asking for the moon, since lawmakers do not wish to commit political suicide by supporting such moves.
In the meantime, politicos with early ads should learn a valuable lesson: the early bird does not necessarily get the presidency.