‘Game show’ politics: Who is really the winner?

July 2, 2021 - 7:46 PM
Art by James Patrick Cruz

The Philippines seems to be turning into a huge game show.

With many personalities posturing for the 2022 elections, there’s a noticeable trend among politicians turning to “game show” masters—hosting raffles, quiz shows, what’s in the box game, and the likes on their respective Facebook pages.

Some even have a regular time slot like the typical variety game show on television.

Groovy music, flashy lights, multiple-camera setup, and prizes that range from cash to the top-of-the-line phone, television, tablet, and others drives many viewers into the live stream of these politicians or even those aspiring ones.

Who wouldn’t want to win in a game which only requires you to share these Facebook livestream, right?

Despite the funfair, Ateneo School of Government Dean Ronald Mendoza has a different take on this trend.

Double whammy 

“Meroong mga pulitiko na ginagamit yung kahinaan at pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayan ngayon para pasikatin yung sarili nila, para mag-take advantage doon sa situation,” Mendoza said in an interview with ANC’s “After the Fact” last June 29.

He said many lost their livelihood because of the inadequate COVID-19 response, which took a toll on the country’s economy.

“Dalawang beses sinampal yung kapwa nating Pilipino. Mali na nga yung response para protektahan sila, ngayon ginagawa pang laro yung tulong na sana ay karapatan ng mga Pilipino,” Mendoza stressed.

“Hindi mo dapat gawing laro ‘yung ibibigay mo,” he added.

“Ang Pilipino kasi masyadong madali yang kaligayahan natin kung minsan, we’re too forgiving,” Mendoza added, expressing his disappointment. He said that the public should open their eyes to these political tactics.

However, opening one’s eyes seems to be difficult for those who have been knocked out by problems.

Office for rent

It is not yet the campaign period but the amount spent by the politicians turned game show masters is no joke, making one wonder why they are willing to spend big.

Mendoza said that this practice is what the economists refer to as “rent.”

“Kaya sila may binibigay sa inyo is dahil may kinuha rin sa atin, kinuha nila sa kaban ng bayan, doon sa binayad nating taxes, o kaya naman pinayaman nila yung sarili nila at ang kanilang mga business, o business ng kanilang mga crony dahil nasa puesto sila,” he said.

Public offices seem to become a space for rent for those who wield power and resources.

Running for office is expensive.

According to a Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism report, the total amount spent by presidential, vice presidential, and senatorial candidates during the campaign period for the 2016 polls amounts to P 5.8 billion.

This figure still doesn’t account for the statement of account and expenditure of those who run for the congressional post and local office.

Election spending is not illegal, but Mendoza noted that the public should be skeptical of the benefits that they are reaping from politicians.

Changing the rules of the game

The current political system has been played well by many officials with their creative tactics and political machinery, outsmarting the public.

For the language of gamers, it’s GGWP which means “good game, well played.”

Julio Teehankee, a political science professor, noted that, “[politics] is not a question of good or bad politicians or good or bad voters, but again it’s a question of a good or bad system,”

Sadly, the system is terrible.

There might be some who want to make a change but Teehankee said that it is difficult to change politics and survive if you do not play the game.

That is why there has to be a change in the rules of the game, Teehankee added.

Although this is easier said than done, Michael Yusingco, a lawyer and a fellow of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, proposed the advocacy approach.

“The approach I’m taking is the advocacy approach which means going directly to the voters. I got the hashtag (#IbaNamanSa2022) from the supporters of Mayor Vico Sotto. That was the rallying cry of his supporters [which] they manifested in their vote,” Yusingco told “After the fact.”

Mendoza said that the public must trust in nation-building and urged the public to vote not just for themselves or their family, but rather they should vote for our countrymen.

However, Mendoza noted that the lack of trust in nation-building is understandable as the public observed the failed campaign promises of politicians in the past, which pushes them to take the bait and benefit from momentary gratification when their votes are still relevant.

Who is really the winner?

As more people join and win in the games of politicians, claiming thousands of cash prizes, a brand-new phone, laptop, or other items, one might say they are the winners.

“There have been studies also by our political anthropologist and sociologist, that in [public’s] view, [the incentives given by politicians] are the weapons of the oppressed,” Teehankee said.

“Ito ang panahon nila upang kahit papaano ay makatanggap sila dito sa mga pulitiko na ito,” he added.

“Ang hirap dito sa pananaw nila nakababawi sila, pero ang hindi nila alam nalalamangan sila nitong [mga] pulitikong ‘to,” Teehankee noted.

As the rules of the game and behavior of the voters remain the same, it would be those who wield power who will be declared as victors while the public remains on the losing end.

Views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author, James Partick Cruz.  He is a 21-year-old journalism student at the University of Santo Tomas. He advocates for freedom of speech and citizen empowerment