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Friday, January 18, 2013

Why Bother Setting The Campaign Period?

OK as long it doesn't say "vote", huh?
(Courtesy of

Having mastered the art of ignoring television commercials, I have honed myself into only paying attention to the television whenever the newscast is on (or back on from another lengthy "earning" break). I have no quarrel with advertising, I understand the value they give (I was in business school many years ago, after all) and it really is a personal quirk to turn the noise (anything that distracts me from my goal) off.

The only time I do watch ads is if (a) it showcases a new product, or a new spiel for an old one, or (b) it's either brilliantly executed or horribly mangled. And last night, it was a case of the first scenario that held my attention.

One after another, various politicians who have not made it a secret of their intent to vie for a Senate seat came on (one appearing as a complete political party's slate), extolling either the pieces of legislation they have passed (if they are currently at the Lower House) or the laws they intend to make once they are elected. I counted a total of 15 Senate wannabes in the span of the newscast I was watching.

Let's get one thing out of the way: no, not one of them ever said, in black and white, to vote for them, for the Senate. Sadly, that is the only saving grace, the only positive that we can draw from this premature awareness effort on the part of these candidates.

And premature it is: the Commission on Elections, in Section 5 of Resolution 9616, has declared that the campaign period for the purposes of the May 2013 elections, is only to begin on Feb. 12, 2013, and will end two days before the actual date of election.


These "don't contain the words vote for me" advertisements are troublesome for two primary reasons, in my view:

(1) They circumvent the law, thereby negating the spirit for which the law was intended.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the reason that a specific date for campaigning is set is to have an even playing field. How would you feel if you intended to follow the Comelec's guidelines (that is, to start campaigning only starting Feb. 12), but saw that your opponent is now bombarding television screens, night after night, with footage of the roads that they have put up, who their relatives (in politics) are, and why they are to be considered "good public servants" - without ever saying the words "vote for me"?

It is but natural that you would feel taken advantage of and cheated (for trying to follow the rules), and would most probably resort to the same thing. (Just this morning, I saw a senatorial candidate "co-host" a show. Again, this candidate never said "vote for me".)

In this country, name recall and visibility are two factors that can propel you to higher office (so it's not really surprising when artistas decide to run for public office), and clearly, advertising is built on these very things. It's the reason people go to ad companies to have commercials and spots made - in the hopes that their "product" will be remembered, and they would capture market share, which (hopefully) translates into actual purchases and sales.

It becomes imperative, then, to ask why politicians would resort to advertising, since they have no actual product to sell. If I was to make a parallel, it may be so that their names will be remembered, and they would capture favorable public sentiment, which (hopefully) translates into votes.

I'm just guessing, of course. And so much for an even playing field.

(2) This clearly questionable action favors the rich, or those parties with deep war chests.

Do you know how much it takes to advertise on TV, radio and print?

Yes, that's at least 6 zeroes: in the millions.

You can imagine, then, how much some candidates have already spent, since I have already blogged about some of them since last year. Giving the public a flimsy reason like "people have to know the good our foundation does" puts into question the timing of the advertisements, especially if the foundation has been existing for decades.

It underscores one thing: you better have big money to play at this level. And it also harbors a point that has been brought up over and over: why would a candidate spend so much for a position that is limited in term, with no guarantees and could potentially wreak havoc in your personal life with the amount of intrusion and scrutiny you are bound to have and have willingly signed up for?

And if exploiting the "I never said the words vote for me" loophole is the order of the day, then really, why do we even allot a limited time frame to campaign?

What would be the point since everyone seems to take pride in "beating the system"?

Really, why do we even bother?

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