Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Don’t mix politics and entertainment? Think again.

Actor Joseph Estrada became president in 1998 while his showbiz pal, Fernando Poe Jr., almost became one in 2004. TV stars topped the senate race in 1992, 1998, 2001 and 2007. There are three actors in the senate today and all of them are running for re-election. Based on latest survey results, two actors are competing for the top position in this year’s senate elections. The vice presidential bet of the administration party is a popular TV host and actor. The major candidates of the local elections in the key cities of Metro Manila like Paranaque, Manila, Quezon City and Caloocan are former film stars.

But actors are not automatic winners in elections. Yes, they are well-known and this is a clear advantage, but it is not enough to dismantle the political machinery of well-entrenched families and parties. In 2007, showbiz candidates in the senate race were rejected by voters. World boxing champion and national icon Manny Pacquaio was ‘knocked-out’ by a scion of a political dynasty in General Santos City in Mindanao Island.

But despite these celebrated setbacks, parties continue to field actors in elections because the popularity and rapport of actors with the poor make them winnable candidates.

On the other hand, it is not just film stars who want to enter the world of politics. Most of the time, it is politicians who want to enter the showbiz world. To gain fame, many politicians and aspiring politicians seek affiliation with the entertainment industry. Even President Gloria Arroyo appeared in an afternoon TV series during the early years of her presidency. Her son was an actor first before becoming a politician. Analysts believe that Kiko Pangilinan and Ralph Recto became senators in 2001 because they have superstar wives who are on TV everyday. Some politicians succeed in having their life story featured in TV drama shows. Last year, vice presidential candidate Mar Roxas proposed marriage to his celebrity fiancée on a noon-time variety program.

All major candidates are aggressively hiring actors to endorse their candidacies. Super rich politicians are able to solicit the support of famous young actors of the industry. Presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino is lucky because his sister is the lead actress and host of numerous top-rated shows while his brother-in-law is a basketball superstar. Not to be outdone, Senator Manny Villar was able to convince other showbiz icons to endorse his presidential bid. Even Pacquaio, the idol of the masses, has endorsed Villar. Being a former actor, it seems former President Estrada has no need for too many celebrity endorsers. Besides, his son who is a senator today is also an actor.

It is not illegal and wrong for actors to join politics as their entry brings entertainment, glitter and fun in an otherwise boring and ugly election campaign. Also, some actor turned politicians have performed well in public service. They can also help challenge the dominant rule of oligarchs in provinces and many of them are sincere in their desire to serve the poor.

But actors must not bank on their popularity alone to succeed in the elections. They must be ready to articulate a coherent platform of governance and they must prove that they are competent to hold public office. Meanwhile, celebrity endorsers should be more discerning in choosing the candidates they will support because their opinion is highly valued by their loyal fans and supporters.

In the end, it is the voting public who will decide whether a celebrity candidate or endorser deserves to win in the elections.


Nuisance candidates are supposed to be instantly weeded out by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) once they have filed their certificates of candidacies. Those who were immediately eliminated from the 2010 presidential race were ‘bizarre candidates’ like Rigoberto Madera who identified himself as the ‘Ultimate Messiah,’ David Torralba Alimurung who wanted to re-forest the deserts of the Middle East and Daniel Magtira who vowed to lead the switch from the country’s usage of its standard 220 volts on electricity sockets to 110 volts. Perhaps the most famous nuisance candidate in recent history was Eddie Gil who found brief success as TV star after being dislodged from the presidential electoral contest in 2004.

The criteria used by the Comelec to disqualify candidates have been questioned by some parties and candidates themselves. Presidential candidate Nicanor Perlas and Senatorial bet Danilo Lim were initially disqualified by the poll body before finally getting the approval to participate in the elections. Senator Alan Cayetano wanted the Comelec to declare his colleague Senator Jamby Madrigal, as a nuisance presidential bet. Activist lawmakers have branded President Gloria Arroyo, who is aiming to win a congressional seat in Pampanga province, as a nuisance candidate.

A nuisance candidate is also someone who deliberately causes confusion among the voters by running against candidates with similar names. As in previous elections, there are many candidates today whose intention in joining the race was to weaken the candidacies of contenders with similar names. In some instances, Comelec failed to quickly resolve disqualification cases against these nuisance candidates. When the Comelec finally disqualified these dubious candidates, the damage has already been done because the election ballots were already printed. These were empty victories in favor of the real candidates because on Election Day, the names of the supposedly eliminated nuisance bets are still included in the official ballot.

The Comelec was also criticized for its delayed action on the disqualification case against presidential candidate Vetellano Acosta. It was only last month when Comelec finally removed Acosta from the official list of candidates. This was too late because the ballots have been printed already. Acosta’s name will still appear in the official ballot next month. The Liberal Party believes the delayed decision was intentional in order to prevent the name of its standard bearer, Noynoy Aquino, from appearing first on the list of presidential candidates.

There is another type of nuisance candidate; although their candidacies cannot be legally questioned. Some candidates are fielding fake candidates in order to weaken their rivals. Fake candidates with similar names can be easily disqualified by the poll body but politicians or former leaders who enjoy a certain level of social reputation can be asked by parties or fellow politicians to run in the elections in order to divide the votes of other candidates. These candidates, though legitimate in the eyes of the law, are no different from other nuisance candidates whose real intention is to collect money and not to win.

It is important that voters distinguish the real from fake candidates. There are still nuisance candidates and other undesirables who have been allowed to run in the elections.

4 Responses to “Lights, Camera…Elections!”

  1. After the elections, please continue to focus on cleaning the garbage of democracy, in the form of nuisance candidates with no real or credible platforms, actors, actresses, as well as the rich and powerful who has nothing at all to offer but parasitism, graft and corruption.

    After the elections, I hope that together with other credible and serious leaders in congress, you could initiate a committee hearing to focus on these issues.

    Revamp of qualifications for public office, and appointments to require knowledge, expertise, experience, skills or competencies, related to the post they are standing for.

    Perhaps a period of nominations and endorsements before the deadline for elections. Those with credible, signed, and verifiable endorsements on their skills, competencies, knowledge as well as expertise or experience should be included in the screened list — from councilor, mayor, governor, congressman, senator, vice president, president.

    Those with no credible endorsements or certifications on their skills and competencies should be removed from the list of nominees or applicants to electoral posts.

    Next is a sort of a job interview by the comelec or other panel to focus on the doability, feasibility, or credibility of their plans and programs.

    Those who could not pass these interviews should not be included in the list of candidates.

    Please create and fund a study group in preparation for constitutional revisions, as well as possible amendments of the electoral system, to remove the garbage, inefficiency as well as graft and corruption embedded in the system. Abolition of pork barrel is most desirable. Legislators should focus on legislation and policy, aided with the best research evidence from peer reviewed studies. A cyber democracy to help legislators feel the voice of the people, through various internet methods, should be in place to help provide feedback, craft and promote legislation.

    We should also select electoral models from countries with successful democracies, on how these are done: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France or Germany perhaps?
    The US is a bad example I think, where voting is too long and expensive. Electoral and popular votes could differ, such as the case of Gore and Bush in 2004.

    In France and in some countries, there is a first round and second round voting for the presidency, but I think this is inefficient.

    France also bans opinion polls. I believe that other countries also do likewise.

    NOY Amante in Korea

    Noy Amante

  2. This is your blog, so you have every right what to include from among the comments received.

    Of course, we expect that only the people who support or agree with your ideas will visit or post comments.

    Suggest that criteria should be: constructive, contributing to the idea or arguments you presented, either for or against. Positive: no ad hominem attacks, no personal attacks, no four letter words, no crazy outbursts.

    Noy Amante

  3. The French model for presidential elections, also found in other countries is worth a study: a first round of elections for all nominees who are screened properly for qualifications and competencies. If the top candidate wins more than 50 percent of the votes, then there is no need for a second round. If the top candidate do not get more than 50 percent, then the top two candidates will be subject to the final second round. This is most democratic, I believe.

    Noy Amante

  4. Of course, our mass organizations should be able to practice these recommendations when we plan for the training and succession for future leadership. We should review our own rules, through the constitution and by laws of our organizations, how we nominate, screen and finally select our leaders, with definite, fixed terms of office to avoid family corporations and the defects of in breeding. Our rules for nomination, selection and election of leaders should be consistent with our prescriptions. Our mass organizations should practice what we preach — competent, democratically elected leaders complying with the rules.

    Noy Amante

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