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The problem starts with the posters

/ 05:18 AM March 21, 2019

A sense of dread accompanies the sight of campaign posters strewn along all the wrong places. Regardless of whose face is on it, seeing such headshots on the commute to the office, their names laid out below in ALL CAPS and loud colors, is rarely a welcome way to start a workday. Slanted, creased and torn, campaign posters are distorting an already distorted landscape.

Seriously, how clueless are these political wannabes to be able to smile in their posters when they are on one-way tickets to working in impossible government offices? Or do they know something we don’t?

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Environmentalists will back me up on this: Those nonbiodegradable tarps and plastics will multiply our carbon footprint exponentially in the short span of March to May, will cause more pollution than usual, and will last longer than most of the candidates’ lives, winners and losers alike.

But voters and candidates alike will also agree that posters are a necessary evil. How effective they are exactly and why exactly they are needed, not many will bother to elaborate. Like tradition, posters just are.

A step away from the traditional, this year’s senatorial election is seeing the rise of the Franken-candidate. They are candidates who have little or no experience in public service but have, instead, President Duterte’s endorsement and the solid backing of businessmen, political dynasties, bigwigs and other fat cats. They are, perhaps, an offshoot of the Duterte moment — a movement which was easy to explain as a “protest vote” and “populist” on the surface but, in reality, had layers of machinery and an avalanche of financing behind the curtains.

And perhaps, of the Franken-candidates, Bong Go, the President’s butler, is the most formidable case. On Feb. 16, Bong Go tweeted pleas supposedly addressed to his supporters to remove tarpaulins or posters of him in prohibited areas. This came as a surprise, considering that the sheer amount of Bong Go posters on the streets makes it hard to imagine they could even fit in the areas designated for posters. Likewise, the words Go used — “I am begging you, sundin po natin ang batas” — were uncharacteristic. Go, whose face is now probably in all our country’s islands (except, perhaps, those in the West Philippine Sea), begging for less publicity?

This incident leads us to question the real purpose of posters. For if the law states that they can only be placed in designated areas and printed in specific shapes and sizes but in unlimited amounts, then why produce thousands in excess and leave it to your supporters to hang them on every sorry nook and cranny there is?

Sure, the law allows that these posters be posted on private properties, but the paradox of hanging campaign materials for public consumption in private places is unsettling. Are our candidates so vain as to allow their faces on our doorways, bedrooms, roof gutters, walls and fences? They can’t be serious in thinking that their voters have that much space in their lots that they would still have room for their tacky posters? The practice just oozes with narcissism and obliviousness to the lives of their voters. In cities full of clutter, nobody in their right minds has space for the faces of politicians.

There is certainly something more to posters than publicity. First and foremost, it is a tool for conditioning, so that when a candidate does win, an easily acceptable explanation would be “he/she had the most posters”—the greatest visibility, in other words, name recall being a paramount qualification for running for public office in this land. Second, it is a loud medium sending a subtle yet powerful message: The Comelec is powerless against the system.

While it might have its rules and its own courts, the undermanned Comelec is impotent when brought inside the royal rumble of voters and diehards; warring candidates, their families and campaign managers; and erring officials, backers and financiers brought to life by the elections, etc. And for Franken-candidates, asserting their territory starts with the posters.

It is unfortunate that these posters are now made of tarpaulin and no longer of cloth. At least, the latter can be turned into something trusty and useful after election time — as “trapo” (dirt rag).

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DLS Pineda teaches at Father Saturnino Urios University, Butuan City. After finishing his undergraduate and master’s degrees in UP Diliman, he decided to reside in his father’s hometown in Agusan del Norte. Tweet @dlspineda.

See the bigger picture with the Inquirer's live in-depth coverage of the election here https://inq.ph/Election2019

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TAGS: 2019 elections, campaign posters, DLS Pineda, Inquirer Commentary
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