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Lies and half-truths

The campaign period for the 2016 elections has not officially started but that has not stopped a number of aspirants for certain elective positions from already unleashing their campaign propaganda on the electorate. We know that what these aspirants are doing is not illegal; they are not official candidates yet and precisely because the campaign period has not begun, the Commission on Elections has no jurisdiction over their political activities. But that doesn’t mean that their actions are ethical or moral.

To begin with, it is clearly indicative of blatant and shameless display of influence and resources.

Television ads cost a hell lot of money—the cost of a 30-seconder television advertisement shown repeatedly over a one-month period on primetime can reach hundreds of millions of pesos. Even if the candidate is independently wealthy, there still remains the question about how he intends to recover all that investment. Candidates aspire to be known as selfless individuals with qualities that would qualify them for sainthood but the fact of the matter is they are in it for a specific return of investment. It could be for monetary gain, which is why being in politics is also referred to as a career. It could also be part of efforts to consolidate power and influence in support of business, economic, or other family or individual interests.

The aspirants who are now flaunting their vast resources with those early campaign ads in TV or in various social networking sites are likewise contributing to increasing the inequities in our political system. Of course, expensive television ads do not guarantee victory as illustrated in the case of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s son who lost in the last senatorial elections despite having all those sleek ads. However, it puts ordinary people without economic resources at a clear disadvantage. This is why TV ads of politicians who used to be known as valiant champions against marginalization rankle; now that they are in a position of influence and power, they have become sellouts, turning their backs on their party-list background and advocacies. What a shame.

Everyone knows that the ads are political in nature and they are indicative of the intent to run for an elective post, but because the campaign period has not started yet and the specific positions these aspirants are aiming for are not advertised, there is no venue for anyone to officially question or challenge their assertions. Thus, aspirants can re-frame issues and bend the truth as much as they wish and get away with it.

But what is really infuriating about early propaganda is the manipulative way in which these are designed to condition the electorate into rethinking lies and half-truths.

For instance, I’ve come across propaganda that re-frames certain economic and historical data in an effort to make people believe that the country was better off during the Marcos dictatorship. This is pure arrant nonsense. I was already alive during the years of the dictatorship and I have very powerful and vivid recollection of the stark realities of those years.

There’s this yarn about how relevant experience is not a requirement for leadership positions. Again, this is hogwash. The only valid predictor of future performance is past performance in a similar or related capacity. There’s only one way to ascertain a person’s capability to deliver the requirements of a particular position, and that is to examine track record or analyze behaviors actually displayed in the past. Potentials are nice to have, but they are not predictors of the desired performance.

And what about those ads that shamelessly package certain aspirants as exemplars of selflessness with more than enough qualities to make them candidates for sainthood? Please. If these people are truly who they claim to be, there is no need to come up with sleek ads—actual critical incidents, unsolicited testimonials, actual documentation culled from reliable sources, and word of mouth would be more credible.

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