Now Showing: The 2016 Presidential Elections

So many are convinced he is the last hope for the Philippines. Very few candidates have seen the fanaticism he has–Facebook groups, Twitter trends, faceless commenters with loud voices and their caps lock on. So many convinced, on the bandwagon, watching the show unfold.

Yet few realize that’s what it is becoming: a show.

We Filipinos like to be entertained. That’s what our GMRC textbooks have been cooing for as long as we’ve known, exalting our inexhaustible sense of humor as a pillar of the Filipino nature. Our most popular shows are a big indicator of this alone: strewn across the airwaves are talk shows unbelievably flamboyant, teleseryes with big romantic gestures every other episode, the public’s scheduled breaks from reality–we like melodrama, thrill, and rose-colored glasses.

And so, it’s natural to assume that we are predisposed to be attracted to grand rhetoric.  Charisma presented as competence, raised voices and raised fists. We like them shouting their rebuttals, promising of solutions that excite us–never mind whether or not they can back up these words with action. This is nothing new in the Philippines; our love for showmanship has welcomed slews of incompetent and inexperienced celebrities who hold office over those who have worked years towards a position. What’s the reason, what’s their edge? They’re well-known. And apparently, that’s enough.

One example of this is Manny Pacquiao. A renowned boxer considered to be one of the greatest of all time, Pacquiao is a household name in the Philippines. During his matches, the crime rates in Metro Manila reportedly go down to almost 0%. Pacquiao, or “Pacman,” as genially nicknamed by the public, has become a major part of the Philippine pop culture. But does his fame ensure his qualification as a Member of the House of Representatives?  The masses took his candidacy at face value, associating Manny Pacquiao the Politician only with Manny Pacquiao the Boxer–never really taking a harder look at what he could offer beyond being a famous face.

But this has extended onto a bigger playing field as well: the 2016 Presidential Elections.  Not only was Joseph Estrada, a former action film star, one of our recent presidents (serving only three years out of the usual six, due to impeachment), it seems that we have another larger-than-life candidate this 2016, Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte.  An excerpt from The Los Angeles Times, in an article entitled “The Donald Drumpf of Asia? Brash, unrepentant mayor leads Philippine presidential race”:

He’s pledged to “solve crime and corruption” in three to six months. He’s vowed to dissolve Congress if it gets in the way. Confronted with accusations that he’s sanctioned death squads in Davao to carry out extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers and other criminals, he’s responded by warning lawbreakers: “I would kill all of you who make the lives of Filipinos miserable.”

At the same time, he has unleashed a stream of comments, particularly about women, that have been nothing short of shocking. In widely reported remarks, he described himself as a womanizer with two wives and two girlfriends—and said he saves money by housing the girlfriends in a cheap boardinghouse. He also was quoted describing the gang rape and killing of an Australian missionary in a Philippine jail. The female victim, Duterte said, was beautiful, so he “should have been first.”

Yet he is still leading in the polls.  It’s not really an enigma; Filipinos have always been attracted to, as said in the article, strongman-type leaders – citing Former President Ferdinand Marcos as a prime example.

It’s no wonder fanaticism has become such a big part in our presidential elections, with so many politicians setting themselves up to be idealized by the public.  Do we look at their policies, or how they’re presented?

Perhaps it’s time we took a hard look at the people who want to be on the frontlines of our nation, and see just how they’re planning on leading us.

Image from Cebu Daily News

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Romeo Moran
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