Benjie Oliveros | Dirty Politics


The country has been holding elections for more than half a century and yet nothing seems to have substantially changed. Local elections are still being fought with guns, goons, and gold while national elections are nothing more than popularity contests. Proof of this is the fact that the top rankings in the senatorial race are populated by reelectionists and former senators making a comeback, the same old names.

Because Philippine elections and politics are elite-dominated (or exclusive) personality-oriented, and opportunistic, so is the conduct of campaigns. Despite the initial holding of debates, the race for the presidency has turned into a media contest. Who has the most ads? Who has the most coverage? Whose ads create the best name recall?

And the press is willingly dancing to the tune. Instead of helping balance the playing field by covering those who could afford the least ads, it is doing the exact opposite. An ongoing study by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility revealed that media coverage has been a three-way contest between leading candidates Sen. Noynoy Aquino of the Liberal party (LP) and Sen. Manny Villar of the Nacionalista Party (NP), and Gilbert Teodoro of the administration party. And these are the very same candidates who have been spending most for political ads.

Well, who could blame the big media conglomerates? They rake in a lot of profits from these same candidates. The election campaign season is, without doubt, the most profitable months for the media networks.

Sen. Richard Gordon of Bagumbayan, JC de los Reyes of Kapatiran and Bro. Eddie Villanueva of Bangon have every right to complain. At least Joseph Estrada gets some coverage being a former president, and the antics of Sen. Jamby Madrigal land her in the news.

But the worst part of it is that the big media conglomerates have been willing accomplices in the dirty politics being played out in the national campaign. Because popularity and personality politics play a big role in national elections, so do dirty politics. There is not a single day when “news” about the alleged anomalies or skeletons in the closet of a candidate do not land in the front pages of major newspapers and top news of major television networks. And more often than not, these so-called “news” are unverified or are merely being played up. Rumors and black propaganda are staple for dominant media conglomerates as they compete for “scoops” and “exclusives”.

Examples of these are the so-called documents that show that Villar does not come from a poor family and the purported psychological assessment of Aquino. ABS-CBN could not hide under the cloak of confidentiality of sources. It does not matter where these so-called documents came from, what matters is whether these have been verified to be true. As it turned out, these were false. The defense of ABS-CBN that the document they have in their possession came from a definite source, in the case of Aquino’s supposed psychological assessment- from someone in the Nacionalista Party, is feeble. And the network’s assertion that it could not reveal its source because it would break the trust between the network and the source is nothing compared to the trust between the public and the press.

It is most unfortunate that the Aquino camp, the Liberal Party, which is leading in the surveys has been employing the dirtiest politics. It has been continuously churning out rumors and black propaganda such as the ‘Villarroyo’ lie. The LP has been repeating this sophism every time a candidate from the administration party transfers to the NP, but brags when another candidate also from the Lakas-Kampi transfers to its ranks. Aquino was even quoted saying that most if not all of the administration candidates who transferred to the NP approached them first but were rejected by the LP. So where is the proof that Villar is the secret candidate of Arroyo?

The NP has been running a relatively clean campaign until the purported psychological assessmentof Aquino was surfaced by the ABS CBN. However, before and after that, the NP has concentrated on getting more name recall rather than hitting at its rivals. Sen. Richard Gordon has been making potshots at the other candidates – such as Aquino’s non-performance as senator and representative of Tarlac – but he has never started a rumor or a lie in an effort to bring down his opponents. Gordon is even complaining that the media has stopped sponsoring debates to enable him to present his platform. Bro. Eddie Villanueva and JC de los Reyes have also been concentrating on their respective sorties instead of engaging in dirty politics. Sen. Jamby Madrigal, on the other hand, has been riding on Villar-bashing to get her in the news.

The conduct of the election campaign is merely reflective of the state of Philippine society. Local elections, especially in the provinces, are still being fought out with guns, goons, and gold because landed political clans still lord it over the vast rural areas. It is undeniably violent because peasants, who comprise the majority of the people in rural areas, are kept in check with the power of the gun by private armies, the military, and the police. These same guns are being used by political warlords against each other. National elections, on the other hand, are being fought out through name recall and dirty politics because it is bereft of substance as far as majority of the Filipino people are concerned. Elections come and go, politicians come and go, and yet the lives of majority of the Filipino people have remained the same and have even worsened through the years.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you cant fool all of the people all the time.”
While nothing has changed substantially in Philippine politics and elections and the state of Philippine society for more than half a century, the same is not true with regards the political awareness of the Filipino people; it has grown in leaps and bounds. (

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  1. yes, media bias lalo na abs-cbn… noynoy lang binigyan ng malaking exposure… tsk3

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