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When Actors Enter Politics

GMA’s Howie Severino couldn’t have said it any better. In a GMA News special report featuring the Revilla family tree, Severino said,

The Philippines’ peculiar brand of moral conservatism has so far stopped efforts to promote reproductive health or legalize divorce, abortion or gay marriage.

But it didn’t stop voters from electing a proud ladies’ man like [Ramon Revilla, Sr.] to two consecutive terms in the Senate.

Neither did church teachings have much effort on voters when they elected to the presidency by a landslide another multiple-family man by the name of Joseph Estrada.

We started 2011 with heated debates on RH Bill and divorce. We end 2011 with a gruesome family affair involving the children of a former Senator, who had sired at least 72 kids with 14 different women. What’s with us, guys?

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“Fun” fact: In 1992, six years after the 1986 EDSA Revolution, an actor was elected Vice President (then Sen. Joseph Estrada) and two actors topped the Senatorial elections (then Quezon City Vice Mayor Vicente Sotto III and Ramon Revilla, Sr.).

Placing 3rd to 12th, after Sotto and Revilla, were eight re-electionist Senators and two Representatives – all with six-year terms. The next twelve (with three-year terms) were a former Vice President (Arturo Tolentino), a DTI Undersecretary (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo), six re-electionist Senators, three Representatives and a former AFP Chief of Staff (Rodolfo Biazon).

Yup, two actors received more votes than 22 men and women with more experience in national government for seats in the Senate, considered as “training ground” for the next leaders of the land.

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The first-ever actor elected to a national position was Rogelio de la Rosa, who became Senator in 1957. In that same year, basketball player Ambrosio Padilla was also elected Senator. Both were candidates of the Liberal Party, and the only two LP candidates elected to Senate at the time. It should be noted that LP at the time has not won a Senate seat since 1951.

Their wins set a precedent for actors to step out of the entertainment limelight and into the political arena.

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The way I see it, it seemed that the Filipinos of 1986 lost faith on their politicians. They may have driven Marcos out of the country through a four-day peaceful street protest in EDSA, but his allies in politics remained. What should have been a period of “starting over” and improving the country’s post-Martial Law conditions became a period of coups, black-outs, and non-cooperation by Marcos allies and supporters under the Aquino administration.

So the public at the time pinned their hopes of a better Philippines on the next most plausible “harmless, righteous” people: the “heroes” they see on TV shows and films. Actors who portrayed these “heroes” (game show hosts included) have minimal to no exposure on national politics, so they can’t do anything wrong, right? Besides, their characters on TV are for justice, peace and rule of law, right? Right?

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Actors who have no political experience whatsoever, or haven’t held a local elective post, have no place in national government. Quite frankly, legislation and the Presidency are serious business.

Anyone, even actors, can run for local positions because their constituency is small. They can govern local units effectively because the problems are, well, local.

But not anybody can hold a national position effectively, for there are lots of factors to consider in making national decisions. Problems abound in every area, and persons who have little managerial know-how (actors included) may not handle the pressure. This is why having a previous experience in local government or in the corporate world is key.

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If you’re an actor elected to a national position, and you did have a prior local government or corporate background, your worries are not yet over. You still have your image – or more specifically, your past “actor life” – to take care of.

I still wonder why the generation before me voted for people like Ramon Revilla Sr. and Joseph Estrada and passively accepted their affairs with other women. We value family as precious, right? But why do most of us get disgusted on extra-marital affairs, yet deem as okay actors having kids with lots of different women, then elect them later when they enter politics? Weird.

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