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When dropout youth become political endorsers

They are the apple of the eye of every Filipino politician—young people whose votes during election time are gems to any person running for an elective post in the government. Comprising a big number of voters in one region or district, the youth as a constituent body have the capacity to turn in election results that are quite decisive. Thus, a number of candidates seem to be in a race or contest to tap the most popular young celebrities adored by millions of fans as their candidacy endorsers or campaign leaders.

However, one can’t help but doubt the capacity of these young celebrities to guide their fellow youth in intelligent voting. After all, these famous young endorsers, although with stardom status, are either dropouts and out-of-school youth or high school and college undergraduates. True, their inactive school life due to the heavy demands of their work may be compensated by wide reading activities. But based on their public-speaking activities, their answers, reactions, or comments to interview questions indicate their lack of awareness and of deep and critical understanding of the social, economic, and political issues in this country.

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The truth is, a big number of the fans of these young endorsers are not really focused on the promo speeches that detail, stress, or exaggerate the qualities of their candidates. Rather, the fans’ attention is centered on adored or excessively admired traits of the show biz endorsers. In addition, similar to the young endorsers, the fans, or the youth in general are not good readers. Their generally poor reading abilities are attested to by teachers at all levels—elementary, secondary, and tertiary—who would often speak of the youth’s lack of interest and reading comprehension.

For instance, according to some teachers, when asked about the headlines in one or two broadsheets, only two or three students in a class of 45 would show a bit of knowledge about the hottest issues in town. In fact, reports and articles on students’ deteriorating reading comprehension have time and again appeared in many newspapers and magazines.

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Some argue that reading has waned because the leading newspapers are now available online. But by and large, when students face their computer, they give more priority or attention to computer games, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking activities than to online news items. The same is true for television. Telenovelas, sitcoms, variety shows, and other entertainment shows are the youth’s most loved programs. They would spend hours on these shows, but zero time or just a few minutes on newscasts or talk shows featuring prominent and learned people in different fields of knowledge.

What if not only young people, but also adults, are smitten by the bombastic campaign lines of the not-so-learned youth endorsers or campaign leaders? Can these fans’ multimillion votes mirror the victory of the best or the most qualitative among the candidates? The avid fans’ excessive love or admiration for the celebrity endorsers’ tinsel-town qualities may be sufficient to win votes for certain candidates even if such endorsers’ promo acts are just plain blabbing or windy talk about the candidates. Endowed with beautiful looks and made famous by their antics or capers, even the most mediocre-minded youth endorsers have the power to eclipse, drown, or thrust to oblivion the qualities of the candidates that rightfully fit the positions they are vying for.

Every national election, all forms of mass-media communication—print, television, and radio—teem with varied verbal or nonverbal promotional activities for candidates. Surely, millions of votes are drawn by these means of communication aimed at addressing the widest possible audience. But who are steering things in campaign sorties? Those who lead the promotion of candidates actively and intensively are young people in show biz, who, ironically, barely know the candidates and who only get the chance to interact with or know something about them during the election campaign. And if their dancing, smiling, and blabbing, let alone their Venus-like features, appeal to their fans’ aesthetic sense, their promo efforts will give the country the least qualified senators, representatives, and other pork-barrel adherents or wishers.

The perpetuation of this kind of campaign operation results in election activities that may serve as the breeding ground of extrapopular but inept or incompetent national leaders. To ensure the youth’s genuine participation in the “daang matuwid,” government authorities should put in place measures to curb the political endorsements of young celebrities that work to prevent the country from producing an intelligent electorate.

Such an electorate is, after all, the key to the nation’s progress.

Dr. Esther L. Baraceros is a faculty member of the University of Santo Tomas College of Architecture.

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TAGS: 2013 Elections, Election 2013, nation, news
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