This post was first published last Wednesday evening, 31 March 2010, just as everyone went off on Easter holidays in the Philippines. Nevertheless, it received one of the highest number of page views (18,000+) despite the general slowdown in blog activity, mostly from readers abroad. I am bringing it right up top now for Philippine-based readers who are just catching up on older posts. It is also relevant, since I am just now writing my promised post on income levels in the Philippines, which will hopefully be posted by late this evening. Many thanks.
The ads were completely annoying, but I thought it best to ignore them rather than write about them at the time. We would change television channels or radio stations whenever they aired (every other minute it seemed) during the free-for-all pre-official campaign period advertising spree last November, December and January. The Presidential campaign of Manny Villar reportedly spent roughly PHP 1 Billion to blanket the airwaves and attempt to sway the hearts of potential voters with slick ads, a pro-poor message, carefully crafted visual images, a heartbreaking “autobiographical” storyline, catchy jingles sung by children, repeated ad nauseam. The ads of all the other candidates (regular readers know I am supporting the Aquino/Roxas tandem) such as Erap, Gibo, Gordon, etc. didn’t grate at all in comparison.
At the time, what bothered me and Mrs. MM the most about the ads was their COMPLETE LACK OF LOGIC and the choice of using kids as the ones delivering the message. The lack of logic stems from this — just because someone used to be poor, does NOT necessarily mean they are more able, fit or capable of lifting everyone in the population out of poverty. Being empathetic to the conditions and plight of the poor is not the exclusive right or even assumed advantage of those who were once poor themselves. Perhaps what the economically disadvantaged voter seeks most is hope, opportunity, and ultimately an improvement in their specific economic conditions. Having sufficient amounts of nutritious food, decent shelter, a good education for their children, adequate healthcare, etc. is probably the typical set of priorities. But defensible logic was not the objective of the ads, it was all about EMOTION and convincing folks to vote for someone who was once like them, poor. Using kids as the ones singing the songs of trial, poverty, despair and hope is another emotional pitch. Kids, by nature, while candid and honest, are a bit light on the credibility side in terms of endorsing any candidate for the top political office in the nation. I must say that the ads were catchy, and masses of folks sang along, and Villar’s ratings rose over the three month period.
The problem with crafting such a simplified emotional message is that it better be predicated on some pretty solid facts, or it may backfire on you. And BACKFIRE it has. Solita Monsod’s column last Saturday, March 27, 2010 was the first to break the story, and it is definitely worth a read for anyone hoping to cast a vote in May. The same topic was covered by William Esposo of the Philippine Star on Sunday, March 28, 2010. Then Conrado de Quiros devoted not one, but two columns to the same issue. Rina Jimenez-David also discusses the matter, here. Greg Macabenta of Businessworld also wrote this column, referring to “Murphy’s Law”. Villar reacted not by refuting the documents presented by the columnists, but trying to downplay their interpretation, see an ABS-CBN post on the matter, here.
For those who can’t be bothered with reading all of the links here (but you really should), they essentially assert that Villar’s advertising claims that he and his family were dirt poor, particularly at the time his younger brother (one of the subjects of his ads) died in 1962 weren’t a good reflection of the truth. There are three main points. The Villar’s lived in an owned home on 560 square meters of land. Before passing away from from leukemia and related complications, Villar’s younger brother was apparently treated at a good hospital for many days prior to passing. Finally, after his passing, the family engaged the services of Funeraria Paz, a very high end firm, to make some of the arrangements. Essentially, the essence of the “dirt poor” ads seems rather exaggerated, if the columnists are correct. For me personally, what this all means is that the candidate appears prepared to skew the truth, if it means garnering millions of votes, and is just dead set on wanting the presidency, regardless of the cost (literally) of the campaign, or the ethics behind the campaign tactics used.
A post on “poverty” numbers up in a day or so, just so everyone has a better feel for the absolutely shocking numbers, particularly those of you domiciled abroad and less current on local conditions.
Note: The title of this post is not original. Someone else said it, but I cannot seem to find the source, so I will simply say it isn’t my creation. As for comments on this post, I am limiting them to readers who have commented on this blog before. I am taking this unusual step as I do not want to have a huge battle of “for and against” comments which usually occur from first time visitors to the blog, attracted by a single topic, and not the overall blog itself. When politics comes into play, campaigns these days seem to employ legions of folks to try and stuff comments and polls so to avoid that, I am only allowing appropriate comments from PREVIOUS commenters in. Many thanks.