by Jose Ma. Montelibano

The recent launch of the political season, symbolized by the public anointment of the Liberal Party’s presidential candidate, will again put on center stage a most unlikely sector – the poor. The most devalued, unappreciated, neglected part of Philippine society, the Filipino masa, will enjoy its cyclical honoring, once every three years. Because of their numbers, and only because of that, the poor will receive so much attention, no matter if most of it is quite insincere. Never mind, because goodies will flow their way.

Political campaigns are not only full of promises but political funds as well. It is as if politicians prepay the voting majority during this period so they then disappoint them for another three years. Or six years when it is a presidential election. No matter how many accomplishments any incumbent president will claim, his or her failures or major fumbles will be highlighted. Truth, too, will give way to perception. Lots of money will be spent to make sure that happens. And this is the fun part of campaigns for the poor, the lots of money being spent, and spent mostly for their benefit.

Of course, the unfortunate part is that substantial amounts will be spent for media, especially by national candidates. National candidates especially will budget great amounts to get radio, print and television exposure. Social media, though, is getting quite aggressive and its reach expanding very rapidly. It is social, kuno, but politicians are pouring money into it already and this trend will continue steadily. Well, this reality should also alert participants in social media that the information they will be getting will not be as sincere or truthful as they would like to think. Where there is money, there is commerce; the bigger the money, the bigger the trade.

And guess what issue will dominate the political noise? Yes, you guessed it – corruption.There is a great irony here, one that hits the core of corruption, when campaign and elections are the main stage where corruption is spawned and and guaranteed to happen during the coming terms of office. The amounts of money spent will indicate how corrupt the future governance will be. In fact, it also indicates how corrupt the outgoing governance has been.

Why the inordinate amount of money spent on every campaign and election, especially on media? What new information so vital to the voting public is worth the billions actually spent (sorry, the true amounts can never be reported) on media? After all, media already overloads their audiences with all sorts of news and opinions daily, or many times a day. I am sure that more information is not the main purpose of candidates and media.

If, indeed, information is the primary purpose of all money being spent for media, then this information is meant for the majority of voters. That will mean the poor who still dominate the Philippine population. If the poor, then, are a priority target of information through mass media, the historical record of the politicians spending for the massive information drive, and the media outlets and personalities paid to disseminate the critical information, is one dismal failure.

If corruption is the crucial issue every election cycle, why is corruption still the main issue today? As a young boy, I can still remember how President Quirino was accused of having a golden arenola to symbolize his corruption (more myth than truth, no one ever saw it), and that was more than 60 years ago. It seems that all the magnificent effort to expose corruption and make the Filipino people emphatically against it has only proved to be a recurrent useless expense. The media obsession on the subject matter cannot disappear as it has become bread and butter, too.

But the grand evidence of the utter failure of using the corruption issue as a central campaign theme lies in the judgment itself of people, many politicians, many more political advocates, and even some from media itself, that the Filipino masa remain stupid voters, the bobotante. The sum total of this pattern of highlighting corruption beyond daily news to primary issue during the campaign period is that the content, the media reach, and their intended audience – the voters – have not resulted in intelligent voters and dismantling corruption. What is this, then? Weak theme? Weak presentation? Weak media?

Meanwhile, media earns to package and propagate the same message of many decades using different words and images to entertain voters. This is the constant – media earns. It matters little that the drive against corruption through massive exposure on the subject is ineffective, the politicians pay over and over again, the media earns over and over again. But then, again, media will claim their business is not about moral or political reform but simply the disseminating of news and information. Of course, it does not appear so when their opinion makers, or newscasters giving opinions as well, are so emphatic and passionate in calling others corrupt.

I can say, though, that the more destructive ignorance or glossing over is when the issue of corruption rivets itself on politicians and not on those who spend on politicians. So many so-called political advocates or opinion makers know that the money fuelling campaign and electoral expenses are coming not only from politicians pockets but from the deeper pockets of the only sector who have more power and wealth. Are we that naive to believe that politicians do not use other people’s money more than their own?

I think we choose to be naive because it is easier to believe so than accept our cowardice and hypocrisy. After all, it is convenient to attack politicians and make believe we have done our bit in going against corruption. Bit for as long as we do not confront the greater source of corruption, we are condemned to wallow in it.

And the poor will vote according to their needs and wishes, adapting to their own survival, with little regard to alleged superior minds and morals. The poor are our karmic harvest.

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