Friday, June 12, 2009

Pera-pera on TV

It is perhaps most apt that this article should appear on the 111th anniversary of the Republic. It shows the state of the polity, more than a century and a decade since the dreams of our forefathers have been prostituted by their unworthy successors.

It all began on September last year. Manuel Villar started a television 30-seconder which pictured him as having a “bleeding heart” for poor OFW’s. That blurb ran for some two to three months. Then, after he had been dislodged as Senate President in the wake of revelations about unseemly conduct and self-dealing as a senator of the realm, the billionaire politician poured more money on the boob tube in order to neutralize the then yet unrevealed story of his shenanigans.

What followed was the “Itik” ad, where this time, Villar’s assistance to “small” entrepreneurs was touted. The story line has a small “mag-iitik” losing his fortune until Manny Villar came to the rescue and loaned him money to rebuild his “itik” stocks. Manny next holds an itik, then wipes the mud on his flaming orange T-shirt. In the next clip, voila, like the man in the Tide commercial, he was laying his arms upon the shoulders of the mag-iitik with the mud miraculously gone. Ah, the ethics of Mr. Itik!

Then, another OFW ad was run, this time with a helpless domestic tearfully saying that her “buwa” was ravished by her “amo”, and she went home, back to her family, only because Villar came to the rescue.

Then there was a commercial where Manny Villar claimed that his grandmother also
worked as a household help, which is why his heart bleeds at their plight, and he will always help them. These days, the “poor boy” image (this always sells…Monching Magsaysay was just a “mechanic” even if his wife’s family owned a bus company; Dadong Macapagal was “the poor boy from Lubao” who retired in Forbes Park) is taken to atrocious heights. Manny visits a barong-barong somewhere in Tondo, where he points to a leaking roof and a small wooden floor where “eleven of them cramped up to sleep”. The spiel starts by claiming “This is a true story”. That barong-barong must have been made of hardwood (yakal, narra, kamagong, maybe even sendora supa?), for Villar is almost 60 years old, and for a barong-barong to miraculously last half a century is stretching truth a bit too far.

In any case, the tagline always catches the “masa”. “Pag galing sa mahirap; tumutulong sa mahirap”. Or so the tale of the surveys show. From 6% in August of 2007 to the seventeen’s and eighteen’s in the second quarter of 2009, depending on whether it is Pulse Asia or SWS.

The cost of all these television ads, without radio, without tele-radyo, without collaterals that announce Manny Villar is “in town” wherever, without “free” media that does not come cheap, especially when they are tasked to “kill” stories about that pesky C-5 brouhaha, the tab, from September 2008 till May 2009, has come out to P321.4 million, not including production costs, which should be about 12 to 15 percent of the broadcast price. So add 38 to 45 million more.

Loren Legarda came up with some television blurbs about the environment on Earth Day last year. Then she segued into twice-repeated 15-seconders about the need to fight corruption, with something like the hovels of Payatas in the background, and her in trademark white blouse delivering a short spiel about how poverty sucks because corruption sucks more. Those ads have been out for some time now, and her survey ratings seem to have dropped from almost 20 to single digit, according to the latest Pulse Asia Ulat. Still and all, those sparse ads cost all of 42 million in air time payments alone.

There is her bĂȘte noire, Noli de Castro, poster boy for Pag-ibig, which he chairs as Dona Gloria’s housing czar. Here, the veep advertises “murang pabahay”, enticing people to start using their savings (if any) to buy their dream home somewhere in the boondocks of Laguna or Bulacan (and make his Wednesday dining buddy Manny Villar even richer). Those ads, or so the advertising industry rating agencies tell us, cost all of 45.8 million pesos, courtesy of the taxpayer.

Again that’s for television airtime alone, not to include production costs, and more --- not including radio and tele-radyo, where the ubiquitous baritone of Mr. Kabayan saturates the audio waves all over the benighted islands. Add that all and 45.8 million should by now be in the vicinity of 70 million, thanks to the Pag-ibig fund.

Mar Roxas comes second to Manny Villar in the TV spending department. Nielsen says he has plunked in a total of 256 million, for ads about “murang gamot”, his pet bill, ran on January and February 2009, then the “padyak” ads where his heart bleeds at the plight of a brother-and-sister lumpen tale about shattered dreams.

But it seems the spending has worked wonders on his survey ratings. From 6% in the latter part of 2007, within which single-digit movements he stayed for all of 2008, he has now broken into the magic circle of winnables, dislodging Ping and Loren, and Pulse Asia rated him with a 13% as of May 2009.

During the survey period, Mar also effectively exposed the lechery and larceny of one Celso de los Angeles, whose Legacy Group plundered small people, in much the same manner that this government plunders every Filipino, day in and day out.

And of course, his much-ballyhoed romance with Korina Sanchez, with wedding bells soon to ring, and announced over Wowowee at that, must have taken the breath out of many a “masa” voter.

But surprisingly, next to Mar in the TV spending department, even if his “infomercials” on “pride of (his) place” started appearing only in the month of May, but with amazing regularity, and even a 60-seconder version which is double the air time used by almost every other ad, is Makati city mayor Jojo Binay.

His city’s “foundation” has spent 115.1 million in all of one month alone, touting health care, senior citizen care, education standards, etc., in the country’s center of finance and big business, and where the richest of the rich live, shop, dine, and play. Unlike Villar’s ads though, you could not question Makati’s credentials in the provision of basic services to its citizens.

You wish though, as the ad ends, that what Binay’s fabulously wealthy Makati could provide its citizens, could likewise be replicated among the 90 million other citizens of this republic. That’s a tall order, considering that Binay presides over a city of some 750,000 residents, less than one percent of the rest of the benighted. But the “masa” were not taught good arithmetic, anyway.

Mayor Jojo of course says that they have been advertising their proud wares before, and does so perhaps even more now, because it is the city’s 337th founding anniversary. That doesn’t sound like it’s the 350th milestone, or the 400th, but heck, what would Jojo’s next spiel say, after the May anniversary has elapsed, which it has? Abangan ang susunod na survey period.

Gibo Teodoro, soon to be drafted into a Teodoro-Puno tandem of the humongous Lakas-Kampi-CMD (PaLaKa to some, as in the unimaginative Partido Lakas Kampi with the catchy and croaking acronym, or NaKaw to others, as in Nagkaisang Kawatan, more aptly descriptive, and more universally appealing, because kawatan is understood for the filth that it connotes in all of the Visayas and all of Mindanao), has blown, from the date Pacquiao beat the lights out of Hatton on May 3, a total of 30.7 million on TV.

The money comes from “well-meaning friends”, Gibo avers, and not from government coffers, as if to jab at Noli, who admits to being the paid poster boy of Pag-ibig. That’s 30.7 million for TV alone, in less than 30 days, enough however for Gibo to overtake the long-running BF and his omnipresent tarpaulins about “Kaayusan” a run for his small bucks. Gibo was given 1% by Pulse in May, while BF, the original and loyal Lakas party member, rated less than a percentage point.
Chiz Escudero is a wonder, one must admit. He has not ran TV ads on nationwide broadcast, although he has some radio advertising in the provinces. But his articulate ability, dismissed as “glibness” by his non-believers, which almost always pop out of the news programs, seems to have caught the fancy of the young and the “yuppies” (I know, that description is no longer “in”, but hey, I do not pretend to be young).

Chiz is Numero Dos in the latest Pulse Ulat, edging out the megabucks-driven Manny Villar from his perch, and threateningly close to “masa” darling Kabayan Noli himself. He is of course the youngest, not yet quite 40, which is the constitutionally prescribed age before one can qualify for the presidency, in the field of many. He could call Mar, Manny, Gibo and Ping “kuya”, and Loren his “ate”, Erap his “tito”, almost his “lolo”.

Ping Lacson started his “Patas na Laban” 30-seconder in late March, sparsely ran on Wowowee and Eat Bulaga noontime, and then TV Patrol and 24 Oras early in the evening. That was all his money could afford. The ad did not talk about his truly humble beginnings, as the son of a jeepney driver and a market vendor in Imus, Cavite, but how corruption has made “equal opportunity” a bygone in the lives of every struggling Filipino.

The TV spiels ran until before Holy Week, resumed two weeks after, then sputtered by May because the resources weren’t coming in. At about the same time, Raul Gonzalez and his coven consisting of Reynaldo Berroya and jesters in media danced their striptease about the so-called “latest” Mancao affidavit. What little goodwill Lacson’s rare ads may have generated in the hearts of the voting public may have been negated by Raul’s striptease, or so opinion researchers say.

He bowed out of the race last week, to end a slow burn that he felt in the marrow of his bones, and after spending a measly 22 million. But in so doing, Lacson has also started the “winnowing” process.

As early as January of 2008, I suggested in this space that the many presidentiables should be invited that early to media-sponsored debates and fora, all over the land, in order to test their character and competence. That, in the absence of party conventions, I suggested, should “winnow the chaff from the grain”, the fit from the un-fit. Nobody took it seriously, and the tale of the ads, fuelled by pera-pera, and lots of it, became the marketplace of political debate. Contrived and paid-for soundbytes took the better of original, extemporaneous position and vision.

The winnowing process has become a function of resources, or the lack of it, one year before the elections itself, nine months before the official campaign begins. Matira ang mayaman.

And so we are where we are, once more in this benighted country, about to choose our next leader, if Gloria and her coven “back off” from their intimations of madness, on the basis of mis-information, dis-information, and paid media. Impressions rather than solid information.

Pera-pera in the land where all the pera is being greedily amassed by “la perra” (I am just translating Gov. Joey Salceda’s description “bitch” into lenguaje mas urbana) y su conjunto de ladrones.

Que pais! What a country!