This famous quotation from George Santayana’s “Reason in Common Sense” is one that Filipinos ought to engrave in their hearts and minds, or at the very least scribble on their palms (ala Sarah Palin), when they go to the polls on May 10th. So far it seems many have already forgotten the bitter aftermath that followed the election of Ferdinand Marcos. I hope that today I am able to stir the ashes of history and in the process reveal the still burning embers that not too long ago scalded us as a nation and a people and the scars of which we still painfully bear.
In the campaign of 1964-1965 Marcos launched an all out blitzkrieg of vote buying, massive advertising propaganda, media enticement, smear if needed and fraud and violence where possible. He won first the Nacionalista Party nomination and later the general elections because he took a “win at all costs” attitude and would not let rules, laws, conventions, money, delicadeza, chivalry, protocol nor etiquette get in his way. And media played a very large and vital role in portraying his victory as inevitable. There rarely was any criticism of his methods; media seemed to buy into the story line that all was fair in love, war and politics. Nobody stood up and cried foul. If anyone did the media was quick to make mincemeat of the complainant. The Joe Aspiras PR ensemble included “quick strike” teams that fanned out across the country to salve any ruffled feathers among the media or take other steps to quell any untoward reporting or commentary. The two media giants of the time, the late columnists Teodoro “Doroy” Valencia and Joe L.Guevarra, were both sympathetic to Marcos and this fact doubtless provided “cover” for others to likewise favor him. And the fact that the incumbent, Diosdado Macapagal, was seriously unpopular made it even much easier to overlook Marcos’ misdeeds.
Marcos’ campaign for a second term was made very much easier for his machine because he had by then full control of all the levers of power. Sergio Osmena Jr. did not have a chance.
That’s the brief history of the Marcos rise to power. Today I see a similar pattern of near wanton spending by the Nacionalista candidate Manny Villar. And once again it seems that a large segment of the media has become, perhaps unwittingly for many of them, channels thru which a candidate is able to portray an image of invincibility or in other respects, a good enough level of acceptability.
This can be done subtly. Take for example the recent charge that Villar’s main opponent, Benigno Aquino III is possibly involved in corruption because a business he once was associated with showed Malacañang Palace as the address. This is a veritable molehill compared to the mountain range of active volcanoes that constitute the massive billion-peso shenanigans that Villar is accused of.
I have no problem with the media bringing this out and investigating it further. What I have a problem with is that these accusations (innuendos for now since no concrete evidence has been offered) were raised at a press conference by senatorial candidates Adel Tamano, Susan Ople and Ariel Querubin all running with Manny Villar. Did anyone in the media ever ask the obvious questions: “What proof do you have that a crime was committed ?” and more importantly, “ Are you trying to establish some equivalency between this unsubstantiated accusation against Aquino and the charges of massive corruption against Villar?” And more: “If you are raising this as a possible corruption charge against Aquino what is your stand on the massive billion pesos worth of corruption linked to your standard bearer?”
By not confronting the senatorial candidates at the press conference, the media became complicit in the attempt to plant in peoples minds that Aquino is just as culpable as Villar, which is an exercise in absurdity. Villar’s track record over the past two decades is lined with allegations of shady deals that would have made Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos envious of their blatancy and sheer size. Yet a seemingly content media dutifully printed the senatorial aspirants charges.