Political propaganda in Philippine setting



 “AAYAW-AYAW nga ako ngunit ‘yan ay di totoo,” says a line from a Tagalog song where the lady singer “resists” the suitor she loves; pakipot for short.

Pakipot was the then mayor of Davao City, Rodrigo Duterte, for initially laughing off  “public clamor” for him to run for President.

“Change is coming,” his PR men hollered as he was launching his candidacy on the promise of waging “war on drugs.” He would eradicate shabu and other illegal drugs in three to six months.

On that note, he beat the four other presidential candidates.

In his first year in office, some 7,000 lives reportedly perished in that “war” that has yet to eradicate illegal drugs.

Duterte’s die-hard supporters brush off “extrajudicial killings” by the police as the price the victims have to pay in exchange for a drug-free society. On the other side are the objectors who view the “cure” as worse than the “disease.”

The social media has become the battlefield where trolls engage in mud-slinging, where perception often grows out of public deception.  The protagonists are the die-hard Duterte loyalists and the Duterte critics who exploit the social media as battleground for mudslinging each other.

Have we ever stopped to think whether we have fallen victims to political propaganda?

Despite the P6.4-billion worth of shabu that has passed through the green lane of the Bureau of Customs and the previous bigger shipments attributed to the “Davao Group,” his supporters refuse to believe the allusion to people close to Duterte. They call anybody who disagrees with them “yellow” even if he is no supporter of the yellow-ribboned former President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III.

In his time, remember, Aquino had also hooked the gullible electorate with his “daang matuwid” (straight path) carrot while running for the highest post in 2010.

Noynoy bagged the highest political post following the death of his mother, former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino. He also rode on public indignation against then outgoing President Gloria Arroyo, who had “left the citizens wanting of an honest and trustworthy government.” His daang matuwid, he vowed, would restore integrity in government.

As a senior citizen, I can recall past instances when political propaganda decided election results. I recall the year1953 when Ramon Magsaysay ran against re-electionist President Elpidio Quirino; and the first time I heard on radio his campaign jingle, Mambo Magsaysay. 

“Everywhere that you would look,” so went the first line of the song, “was a bandit or a crook. Peace and order was a joke till Magsaysay pumasok!”

Moreover, a trivial propaganda that also worked against Quirino was the report on the “golden urinal” that he had bought for himself.

Carlos P. Garcia floored the rich Jose Yulo in the 1957 presidential election on the platform of economic protectionism known as “Filipino First.”

“Rising prices” was the issue that frustrated Garcia’s re-election bid against then Vice President Diosdado Macapagal in 1961.

President Macapagal tried to win re-election in 1965 by portraying his challenger, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, as “land grabber” and “killer of Julio Nalundasan.”

Marcos ignored that accusation and exploited his own track record as a World War II “bemedaled hero” through his biography For Every Tear a Victory and the movie Iginuhit ng Tadhana starring Luis Gonzales and Gloria Romero as Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.

Marcos’ declaration of martial law in1972, allegedly to quell the creeping communist rebellion, was widely perceived as a way out of his two-term limitation. The assassination of opposition senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, however, sparked public indignation that culminated in his ouster during the “People Power Revolution.”

Jumping over to the present, we see a Rodrigo Duterte trying to project a strong but “lovable” personality. Fortunately, he does not have enough of that undeserved adulation that could railroad a “revolutionary government.”  There is still hope for our mangled democracy to survive.