A response from an astute observer on social media site Twitter made me realize how mind numbing the political discussions in the Philippines have become. My original tweet was about Senator Grace Poe’s message during a recent press conference about her plans to run for President in 2016. According to Poe, “sincerity trumps competence”. To which I tweeted, if she was truly “sincere”, she would use her married name “Llamanzares” in campaigning instead of her maiden name Poe.
We all know that Presidential elections in the Philippines are mere popularity contests. By using the popular name Poe, the senator is in a way cheating her way to the top job. She knows that using Poe will give her advantage over other candidates because most Filipinos associate Poe with her late father and actor Fernando Poe, Jr. or FPJ. Most Filipinos best know FPJ in the lead role he played in the film Ang Panday, the most enduring super hero ever to grace Philippine cinema.
Obviously, Senator Poe is relying on name-recall to win the Presidential Election. This doesn’t seem to bother anyone in the Philippines. Hardly anyone finds her use of her maiden name instead of her married name, odd. They probably think it’s an accepted fact that politicians do take advantage of the Filipino people’s gullibility.
Going back to my Twitter post, David Barua Yap II responded with “Is it too much to ask for both sincerity AND competence? Why should voters choose between one or the other?”
I just had to laugh out loud after reading it. I laughed not because it was a dumb response. I laughed because it was so obvious, yet a lot of people missed it, myself included. And I almost kicked myself on my backside for it. I can be hard on myself sometimes, you know. To explain my lapse in analysis using the local vernacular: nakakabobo na talaga.
Of course people need to choose a candidate who is both “sincere” and “competent”. The trouble is, candidates like Poe who are so confident about winning the election infect people with their irrational rhetoric. She is reducing the argument to whatever favors her situation. Because her critics highlight the fact that she lacks experience – having only been a senator for less than three years with no significant accomplishment to boost of so far – she tries to convince everyone that experience or competence is not important even when you are aiming for the Presidency. She dismisses competence as if it is a bad thing.
Unfortunately, because she is so popular right now and also has the advantage of being telegenic compared to the other candidates, most Filipinos, including journalists, do not question her “wisdom”. They just lap up everything she says.
As Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao said, the Philippines doesn’t have an aggressive press who could pounce on candidates like Poe who spew moronic drivel. If the country did have a competent press or a thinking press at least, candidates would be scrutinized well and their deceit exposed eventually. Instead, we have journalists who are too soft and act like space cadets during press conferences because they are star-struck themselves at public servants who were former celebrities or are related to celebrities like Poe.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer leads in producing the mind-numbing “news” and inducing the vacuous debate with their daily headlines dedicated to speculating about who Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino will endorse in the coming election. It’s amazing there are still people who subscribe to them. It’s a shame one can’t physically throw the paper in the bin in the digital age. You can almost see the stupidity of their news infecting people through the wires of the computer.
With a weak press, celebrity candidates and combined with a gullible crowd, it’s almost a guarantee Poe will win the Presidency. The only thing that can stop her is a successful disqualification suit against her questionable citizenship and residency status. Let’s all hope the people working in the courts aren’t too star-struck to decide objectively.
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