My neighbor, Mang Simeon the motorized tricycle operator, hates artistas. He’s always huffing and puffing about whenever someone or the TV mentions cinema actors Edu Manzano’s and Vilma Santos’ names as potential boosters to a presidential candidate’s ticket to counter the effect showbiz entertainment personalities Kris Aquino and Boy Abunda are making on Kris’ brother, presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino. My neighbor never liked either former actor and later President Joseph Estrada or the current president’s son, actor-congressman Mikey Arroyo. But what he, my neighbor, doesn’t realize is that all the candidates in all the Philippine national elections have always been artistas.
I’m not being sardonic, trying to make a blanket statement about politicians and candidates as all just pretending to be heroes during their campaign sorties, for some of them may have actually filled the hero’s shoes at one time or another, in one instance or another. What I’m referencing, rather, as their noteworthy pretense are not the ones in their respective quiet beings, intrinsic to these beings, but the ones in our people’s dictate upon their beings, the extrinsic influence. After all, candidates only pretend to be heroes according to how the people want them as, pretty much the same way one says the things others want to hear. Now, the matrix of this cultural exchange may be complex, but suffice to say that even though a candidate may wish he were in a position where he does not have to pretend to be optimistic but rather honestly lecturing away to an audience about reasons to be initially pessimistic, the average Filipino voter would however want him to pretend to be a hero now, already, because of their emotional need to have one—a need not unlike the hunger for a sports icon trying to win against a perceived Goliath of an opponent.
In our culture, to taunt the Filipino voter into examining a candidate’s closeness to corporate moguls and taipans like, say, the Lopezes with their Lopez Group of Companies or the Ayalas and Roxases and Zobels with their Ayala Group of Companies or the John Gokongweis or Lucio Tans or Enrique Razon Jr.s or Manny Pangilinans or possibly, latently, Danding Cojuangcos, is to push it too far and to be suspicious. To encourage examination of global connections would be doubly suspicious. The suspicious is discredited in the game of Philippine elections, an election to the Filipino voter being no more than an entertaining game of basketball with foul rules. It is no surprise, then, that many a Filipino have died from asking too many questions. So that I, being a coward, will not myself hasten to ask these very questions here.
Good or bad, but inspired perhaps by an earlier century’s East India Company, corporate “support” or sponsorship of a government’s election in our era is a fact, a reality involving companies and brands propelling governments into actions and decisions that make the world go round.
Filipino voters deny the presence of corporate interests, even as they are aware of open corporate support for a candidate or candidates (e.g. Danding Cojuangco for Chiz Escudero and/or Loren Legarda, and maybe Manny Villar [of Cojuangco’s friend Ferdinand Marcos’ Nacionalista Party] should he host Legarda to be his VP candidate, and maybe Gibo Teodoro, Cojuangco’s nephew, or Erap, a Cojuangco friend). Thus they might not notice that this could just be the most Danding Cojuangco-ridden presidential contest ever, with almost no one decrying his presence, not even Noynoy Aquino’s ship (whose corporate backers have yet to be determined). Many of us might even refuse to remember an Erap-Chinoy business groups connection, or the Erap-Lopez in-law filial connection for that matter. (Does ABS-CBN’s intermittent airing of pro-Erap passages from, say, Pinky Webb or Anthony Taberna—whose subtle criticisms of current government anomalies are nonetheless admirable—have anything to do with this latter connection?) If Filipino voters can deny these local realities, how much more entertain the possibility of international connections, as with—say—Manny Villar, whose path to big wealth derived from a World Bank loan after a period of trying to sell WB loans to others?
This denial is sad because it can lead to other denials. One may deny that such contributions or “power brokerage” will influence a candidate’s future decisions, for example, should that candidate win. And—as a way of extending the faith—deny the possibility of a campaign sponsor corporation’s later establishment of little front corporations to corner government contracts. It is no wonder that even after reports of that sort come out in the papers later, the nation continues to be divided into divergent political faiths, some within it treating the papers’ reportage as told-you-so bible stuff, while the others in it sneer about the papers’ supposed fiction.