I am not a fan of ABS-CBN’s Its Showtime! but last Saturday, September 5, 2015, I was not able to avoid watching it. I was working at home and my laptop is just a few meters away from our TV. My AutoCAD had a hard time reading one of the files that I was working on so to divert my attention while waiting for it, I glanced at our TV. When I turned my head, Kim Atienza and Joey Marquez were doing a performance. It is that part of the show where celebrities wear make-up and do a lip-syncing to look and sound like another celebrity. In the case of the two, they did a Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos, two of the most popular actresses in the Philippines since the 70s (or even earlier). The two were former politicians: Atienza, a former Manila City 5th District Councilor while Marquez is a former Mayor of Paranaque City.
Kim Atienza somehow kept a respectable image after by being a host of a science-oriented TV show and a regular weather forecaster for a local news. Both activities, however, were actually started by the late Filipino inventor-scientist-celebrity, Ernie Baron, also a respected Filipino. I believe he needs to keep such an image for the reason they are a family of politicians. His father is a one-time Mayor of Manila City and at present a member of the House of Representatives while one of his sibling is an incumbent Manila City councilor.
On the other hand, Joey Marquez was a comedian turned politician in the early 90s but returned to showbiz when he lost for a bid to congress. Many believe that his loss was attributed to the controversy (or scandal) he was involved with together with President Aquino’s sister, Kris in 2003. That scandal opened a can of worms exposing how allegedly a serial womanizer that he is and Kris admitted in an interview that she contracted a sexually-tranmsitted disease from Marquez.
Both were once — and still are — respected for their record in public service. I believe those who supported them for their political bids are still there and some will still vote for them if they decide to run again, especially Atienza. And I am afraid for the people who look up to them.
However, what they did last Saturday on that TV show raised my eyebrow. I believe that goes against every fabric of respect they earned as once-public servants. What did they do? They cross-dressed, wore ridiculous make-up in an effort to look like the actresses they were impersonating and danced awkwardly while lip-syching the songs and movie lines Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos were known for all to the delight of most (because I’m not sure if everyone there approves it) of the audience.
Expectedly, after the performance, the two were saluted and congratulated by other hosts of the show by impressing their studio audience and Atienza said that what they did is “in the name of art.”
I understand the need for statesmen to maintain a connection with people and one of the ways to do that is to by being at their level. They need to send a message that they can relate to the people and they are just as human as they are. What I find hard to agree is to do this in a clowning way. Political candidates singing and dancing on their campaign events are nothing new but I noticed that it is getting worse. And from what I know, this is a uniquely Filipino cultural trait. The people seem to want more and the candidates/politicians are ready to give more. It started by paying people to attend their campaigns (Ninoy Aquino also said this in his 1981 speech in the US) and I fear that this could evolve to candidates not minding wearing sexy clothes and pole dancing just to get votes or maintain their approval the electorate.
I also think this also reflects what most Filipinos are looking for in whoever wants to get their attention. It is quite disgusting because I seem to equate this to the Romans when they sought more blood in the Coliseum when gladiators fight.
So again, where do you draw the line? Filipinos seem confused on what to expect from whoever is in front of the camera and certain politicians and showbiz personalities worsen that wrong perception.
Besides Kim Atienza and Joey Marquez, I especially address this article to all candidates who are willing to do whatever it takes including what the two did just to assure getting the votes they need.
“The expression or application of human creative skills and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”
“A skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice.”
I think they have successfully expressed their creativity and imagination and showed that they have good skills that they acquired through perseverance. They made a lot of people, well, not necessarily happy but laugh even at their own expense by looking so ridiculous, which reminds me of Dr. Patch Adams. What the two did, I think, falls within the definition of art and hence they do earn the accolades for that.
However, unlike Dr. Adams, most of their audience are not really physically sick and dying. The Filipinos are may be sick but the cure is not this kind of entertainment but social awakening. Laughter can only be considered a tranquilizer or a pain killer and when it subsides, the pain (reality) comes back to sting again. Thus, Filipinos have (and should have) no choice but to face what is causing their social pains, squarely. Atienza and Marquez are former government officials and as responsible statesmen, they should not have gone down to that level. People still look up to them and this is what I am afraid of.
A lot of idealist Filipinos who do not share these traits (where some foreigners negatively known Philippines for), have strived and struggled to invite other Filipinos to be more socially conscious and refocus their attention to important national issues and displays such as the Atienza-Marquez performance do not really help. If at all, I think the two set a worse precedent for what politicians have to do to get the approval of the people. A few Filipino candidates are already known for singing and dancing during campaigns and I think they sent a message that the people can ask them for more.
I would like to quote a line from the Civil Service Code of Conduct, believing that this still applies to the even if the are already former public servants. From Republic Act 6713, Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, Section 4(b) states:
Section 4. Norms of Conduct of Public Officials and Employees. – (A) Every public official and employee shall observe the following as standards of personal conduct in the discharge and execution of official duties:
(b) Professionalism. – Public officials and employees shall perform and discharge their duties with the highest degree of excellence, professionalism, intelligence and skill. They shall enter public service with utmost devotion and dedication to duty. They shall endeavor to discourage wrong perceptions of their roles as dispensers or peddlers of undue patronage. (Emphasis supplied by the author)
I strongly believe that what they did sent a wrong perception in addition to the already tarnished image of a Filipino public servant. Most Filipinos feel that politicians are like celebrities and thus, they should be ready to perform like clowns on stage or in any public appearance to entertain them. And when people are asked about their function, it’s like – what public service?! Really, how many Filipinos were delighted to hear President BS Aquino, III say “e di wow!” (of all the times he should do this) in his State of the Nation Address?
Expecting right service from their government officials is not really known among most Filipinos. If one knows how to entertain, it is his ticket to Philippine politics. This I think is why there is an influx of Filipino actors and actresses into government posts. The scary part is most of them got their positions not by their professional qualifications but with their looks and the characters they portrayed on movies and TV. I think when people voted for Fernando Poe Jr (FPJ), they didn’t really voted for the person running, they voted for Panday, Roman Rapido, and all other hero characters FPJ played. Lito Lapid can attest to this. He won as senator and now I heard he regrets it. I think he won because people voted for Leon Guerrero, a movie character he was known for. I can only wonder what would have happened had FPJ won the presidential elections and failed miserably in his job. I can only assume that those who cheered for him will be the same group of people who will ask for his immediate impeachment. And he will be replaced again by another actor.
I believe that Atienza and Marquez’s performance added to the confused perception about celebrities and statesmen among most Filipinos especially the masses that are not really socially informed or conscious.
Filipinos will really have a hard time distinguishing celebrities to entertain them from public servants that should serve them as long as Filipino statesmen will continue riding in this culture of perversion. No wonder political parties are not really basing their candidates qualifications on individual platforms and intelligence and our pleas for an on-the-air debate among political contenders fall on deaf ears. Since the 90s, political parties normally invite one or two celebrities to join their slate, not really because of their skills but on the potential to draw votes for the rest of the party’s candidates. That is not to discount that there are indeed good showbiz personalities that shifted to politics but, really, how many Ronald Reagans does the Philippines have?
With respect to Atienza and Marquez, as I have said, I understand public servants should always maintain a connection with the people they serve even after they finished their terms. They should go to their level, live with them and be just among them. It is a mark of humility that government officials are expected of.
However, there is a difference between humility and doing something humiliating. The first causes to gain respect especially from others and the second injures self-respect. The masses are slowly dragging them into a pit of mud but, so what! It is somehow fine with some politicians because, if they win, they’ll just plunder public funds out of the people’s taxes. What a way to get back! Uninformed Filipino voters will never realize that because they are too intoxicated with the wit of the entertaining politicians.
Considering that Kim Atienza and Joey Marquez are Christians like most Filipinos, I leave this Biblical passage to ponder in case they will do a repeat:
- Regarding public appearances:
“Therefore, I appeal to you by the compassion of God, brothers, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason.” – Romans 12:1
- Commitment to God:
“Whenever you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it, for he finds no pleasure in the stupid ones. What you vow, pay.” – Ecclesiastes 5:4
- Conduct during an appearance:
“As obedient children, stop being molded by the desires you formerly had in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all your conduct” – 1 Peter 1:14-15
(Emphasis supplied by the author)
Therefore, there should be a set boundary while being at the level of the masses. Filipinos should learn to leave entertainment to entertainers and expect good governance from government officials and statesmen and ask nothing more from both. In case of confusion, it is the statesmen who are expected to know better and draw the line that must not be crossed, because they should be the custodian of their constituents’ moral and ethical compass.
Philippine society was called dysfunctional to its core quite a number of times on this site alone. The Atienza-Marquez stage performance on Its Showtime! and the people who applauded it last September 5 is another sample of that. Even if they are former politicians and moved to entertainment as a new career path, they still carry with them the responsibility of a statesmen hence a highest form of conduct is expected of them therefore, there are certain acts that they must not do especially on stage. Otherwise, people will look for that in other statesmen. You don’t want to see BS Aquino III and Mar Roxas cross-dress and lip-syncing in their campaign rallies, right?
Note: Usually, criticisms like this are replied with “pasensya na kung kami ay may na-offend…” I would like to clarify that I am not offended. I’m just alarmed.
I use to be a future Supreme Court justice.