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Dirty Politics

The country has been holding elections for more than half a century and yet nothing seems to have substantially changed. Local elections are still being fought with guns, goons, and gold while national elections are nothing more than popularity contests. Proof of this is the fact that the top rankings in the senatorial race are populated by reelectionists and former senators making a comeback, the same old names.

Because Philippine elections and politics are elite-dominated (or exclusive) personality-oriented, and opportunistic, so is the conduct of campaigns. Despite the initial holding of debates, the race for the presidency has turned into a media contest. Who has the most ads? Who has the most coverage? Whose ads create the best name recall?

And the press is willingly dancing to the tune. Instead of helping balance the playing field by covering those who could afford the least ads, it is doing the exact opposite. An ongoing study by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility revealed that media coverage has been a three-way contest between leading candidates Sen. Noynoy Aquino of the Liberal party (LP) and Sen. Manny Villar of the Nacionalista Party (NP), and Gilbert Teodoro of the administration party. And these are the very same candidates who have been spending most for political ads.

Well, who could blame the big media conglomerates? They rake in a lot of profits from these same candidates. The election campaign season is, without doubt, the most profitable months for the media networks.

Sen. Richard Gordon of Bagumbayan, JC de los Reyes of Kapatiran and Bro. Eddie Villanueva of Bangon have every right to complain. At least Joseph Estrada gets some coverage being a former president, and the antics of Sen. Jamby Madrigal land her in the news.

But the worst part of it is that the big media conglomerates have been willing accomplices in the dirty politics being played out in the national campaign. Because popularity and personality politics play a big role in national elections, so do dirty politics. There is not a single day when "news" about the alleged anomalies or skeletons in the closet of a candidate do not land in the front pages of major newspapers and top news of major television networks. And more often than not, these so-called "news" are unverified or are merely being played up. Rumors and black propaganda are staple for dominant media conglomerates as they compete for "scoops" and "exclusives".