With streets heavily dressed in tarps, unnecessarily loud with jingles, and clothed in different colors, it is clear that campaign season for the 2022 National and Local Elections has commenced. Apart from the physical campaign materials, sorties, and debates, candidates have also been making an effort to present and to defend their platforms as far as they can through online means.
As a sea of campaigns floods my feed, a phrase once told by my father resurfaces from my memory: “The better storyteller emerges as the winner.” This merely points out that platforms are nothing without their hook. Just turn off your ad blocker on YouTube and you’ll know what I mean.
More than platforms, our candidates have the option to bare their own character to the public. They share their life stories and profess the values they believe are important in shaping the future of the country. That’s why, instead of plans, many focus on selling a story that makes them appear more relatable and grounded in their authentic fashion.
Presidential candidate and Manila mayor Isko Moreno presents himself as the guy who’s friends with everybody. He displays himself to be the middle-man among the so-called “dilawans” and “pinklawans” and the Duterte and Marcos supporters. He disregards any sort of rival by refusing to pick sides and focuses on providing what he claims are real and fast solutions to the current plight of the Filipinos and of the Filipinos only.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao, arguably the Philippines’ most prized athlete, carries his image as a man of hardships. He is a man of unwavering Christian faith as seen in the way he integrates preachings into his policies, much to the disapproval of many critics. He understands what it means to grow up poor and uses his personal experience to drive his desire to serve.
On the other hand, Sen. Ping Lacson is an experienced public servant who is unafraid to criticize the Marcos and Duterte administration despite previously expressing support for the latter’s actions. He demands accountability and shows up to debates even when he knows they will discuss the allegations made against him. He believes that through honesty, competence, and courage, he will correct the wrongdoings of past administrations and restore trust in this government through leading by example.
While Vice President Leni Robredo also shares the same intent of restoring faith back in the government, her current position and track record solidify her experience as a leader. She is a woman who stands by her actions to prove to the Filipinos that she is qualified to take on the presidency. Robredo’s constant presence is her palpable promise that she will never leave the people behind, even if it means making difficult decisions.
Lastly, the survey frontrunner Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. proclaims that he will unify the Philippines. Heavily relying on a strong online presence, Marcos projects himself to be a relatable candidate with the fitting credentials to be president. As they played Bagong Lipunan and kicked off his campaign in the name of his late father’s love, he continues to be a delusionary image of a “golden age” of the Philippines during the Martial Law era.
These are the narratives that our presidential candidates have branded themselves with throughout their campaigns, in interviews, and in debates. However, as the candidates’ audience, how much of it is real and how much of it is fantasy?
Storytellers are capable of playing the role of deceptive narrators, which is why we need to ground their stories on facts and not on hearsay. When their words are dissected, do their actions align with what they say or do they portray entirely different characters? Are their stories consistent and do they mirror everyone’s realities or were certain parts left out? We should remain critical of these. Stories our candidates orchestrate have every right to be questioned and called into accountability after all.
We must not allow ourselves to dote on their stories because our trust deserves to be earned through truth and integrity, not through accepting questionable ideals and so-called happy endings.
In this time, we should be cautious about who and what to trust. However, measurements and standards do exist. Government officials have track records to follow, so it now becomes a question of how consistent they have been in their time of growth, and how they react to missteps, and respond to callouts and even the clashing stories pit against them.
An example would be Marcos Jr.
I have watched more Marcos Jr. content than I would like and whenever one brings up the violence during Martial Law, all he ever has to say are either, “Those are just allegations,” or “Show me.” It’s a lazy effort. A man who claims to have a diploma from Oxford should be more than capable to do his own research or to at least hold a conversation. Instead, he drops the conversation and chooses not to delve deep into the dark accounts of history. Instead of addressing these matters, he makes an effort to upload heavily pre-produced videos and interviews all for you to watch on his YouTube channel.
We have been seeing Marcos Jr. for what he has not done and for who he is not. For a candidate who thinks he has the credentials to be the next president of the Philippines, ironically, his actions don’t even measure up to his own distorted truth.
But then again, candidates are storytellers. If they cannot be reliable ones, we should be wary to never choose a storyteller who erases other people’s stories to better fit their own narrative. We should choose the narrator who understands that the truth is something that is pursued and not fabricated nor silenced for gain.
More than being critical of our candidates, we must be critical of our own choices.