Professionalizing political campaign-A A +A
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
IN AN electoral system where vote buying, selling votes and electronic fraud are reportedly rampant and well organized, and on the other hand, where conduct and outcome of elections are controlled by those who organize machinery, deliver votes, build or destroy the image of candidates, and no less the fund donors who will collect favors after, one would wonder if there would still be a chance to change our electoral system and professionalize the electoral campaign.
A professional political campaigner and writer once wrote that the only way to get to govern is to get elected and electoral campaigning is the ugly price one has to pay for the opportunity to practice statecraft or join governance.
True, electoral campaigning in the Philippines is as bad as the trapos and their families and clans dominating our political terrain.
In their book Campaign Politics, former NGO workers Tiquia and Carriaga noted that Philippine campaign politics has long been accepted in many circles, candidates, campaigners and voters, as both a science and art of persuasion and manipulation, and the practice has become sophisticated, expensive and highly deceitful as election cycles come and go.
They noted that for a long time, it was the organizational politics that is the decisive factor in campaigning. Today, they observed that in the past two or three decades, campaigning has largely been influenced by media politics, as people no longer obtain information from candidates and political parties but through the eyes and ears of the media. Media become powerful political arbiters, giving primacy to looks, flair and money of the candidates.
Unfortunately, there is no rule that professionalizes our campaign politics that regulate the power and influence of the moneyed politicians, or give the poor candidates a better chance to win. The Comelec only sets the do's and don'ts of campaigning, not about winning or losing. In the end, the moneyed always have the edge, the moneyless are left imagining victory underwater.
Still, I agree with Tiquia and Carriaga in arguing that for our electoral system and campaigning to be reformed and changed, however slow, campaigning must be more of persuasion than manipulation and prefab deceit and must rely largely on sound strategies, on team work, on platforms and programs, on mass support and reasonable budget, and with a minor stress on the nuts and bolts of methods and gimmicks, that all influence voting choices.
Designing and implementing a good campaign in politics still matters, despite the overarching dominance of the trapo politics and campaign politics. But since there is no one winning formula in electoral campaigns as the success story of one may not be applicable to another, there is a need to design highly innovative, flexible and dynamic, but true to being persuasive and professional.
The trapo formula of strategy, machinery and money works only on certain conditions and cannot in other terms. Even the well meaning advocates of alternative politics have not come up with a winnable formula that could counter well entrenched machinery and money of the trapos; they often end up progressive in intentions, but still trapo in substance and forms. Still, trapo.
The way to challenge trapo campaign politics of manipulation, deceit and money using and army of shock troops and mercenaries in the barangays and the poll precincts is not to match them with the same. It will only strengthen the cycle of political bankruptcy, and perpetuate the old rule. It is in promoting truth, programs, transparency, responsibility and accountability, good organization and team work, and professionalizing the conduct -- that will truly matter in the long run.
Of course, it is easier said than done. It is easier to expose and oppose than to re-do and propose. And this is a thing that is not achieved overnight, or in one tactical engagement. This is a continuing war, won one step at a time, and in consonance with the growing strength of the forces of change on the bigger scale.
To paraphrase a popular adage, some candidates can be professional even if others are not, cannot and will not. Being professional is an expression of one's strength and integrity; it will not diminish one's self, one's humanity. It will bring enlightenment to the wicked.
Note that all victorious struggles, whether, electoral, social and national liberation, go through a long and difficult process. The point is, make a step, make a spark, and sweep a prairie fire.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on January 08, 2013.