What purports to be the crème de la crème of Philippine media was in full attendance in that event ready to clinically dissect the Senate pretenders.
It was the much ballyhooed ISANG TANONG, a brainchild of GMA 7, one of the two highly successful private TV behemoths, the other being ABS-CBN. While it looks like a painful social corporate project aimed at educating the voters, the magnitude of its commercial breaks betrays its pseudo-philanthropic objective. The show runs a full two and a half hours, while its advertisement gaps eat up the whole yard of seven minutes per cut. The TV station ambled all the way to the bank. A viewers’ survey reveals that ISANG TANONG surpassed by three points a highly successful soap of the top two media tubes.
We had the show for two Sundays, blazing at exactly 10:30 pm. All political activities come to a halt midnight of May twelve, hence, no more ISANG TANONG by May thirteen, the second Sunday of May.
Two sets of guests were invited on each Sunday beginning April 29. Each set comprises 15 Senate bets, broken down into three sets or five “teams”. The three members of the team were individually asked by a segment host, like Mel Tiangco or Jessica Sojo or Vicky Morales, with a standard question, while the two members were closeted in a soundproof carrel. The candidate has 90 seconds to share or collect his thoughts. The segment host may interject and ask follow up questions so long as the time allotted is not exceeded. A buzzer takes care of that, and the microphone dies. After fielding the first question, the host then conveys the aspirant to the panel of investigative reporters, anchors, commentators, and columnists, with the likes of Manolo Quezon, Conrado de Quiroz, Malou Mangahas, heavy-hitters all, for the second query, good for a 60-second response. After the three members have completed their first two questions, they are then called by Mike Enriquez, the main host, to sit on the centre stage for the third and last question, courtesy of the candidates themselves. The fifteen bets were asked to write down one question each and plunked it inside a ballot box. Enriquez then asks the applicant to pick one at random. The latter has another 60 seconds. After everybody has gone thru the route, they were then requested to sit side by side in a 3-row elevated gallery to answer for 30 seconds the last common question. And the show winds up.
There is more discipline in ISANG TANONG than in any Senate Committee hearing.
The most interesting part is the second question from the panel. Apparently each candidate submits a written personal profile or fills up a questionnaire provided by the show. Nonetheless, the interrogator is not limited by these materials. His journalistic license or his yen for the bizarre or or plain genius comes in. The second question proves to be the candidates’ nightmare. Each bet has his Achilles heel or skeletons somewhere. They wish the electorate look kindly at them or like one virginal tabula rasa or a babe in the woods. They wish the voters are in fiesta mode and not inclined in retribution or intelligent selection. Let the people enjoy their catchy jingles and the motherhood bluffs. That was the tried and tested recipe that elected the likes of Mar “Mr. Palengke” Roxas, Jamby “Juday” Madrigal, Lito “Ben Tumbling” Lapid, Richard “Wow Phils” Gordon, Juan “Let’s Doh It!” Flavier, Miriam “We need Brenda in the Senate!” Santiago, Ralph “Mr. Vilma” Recto, Kiko “MegaSha” Pangilinan, etc. Migz Zubiri confessed to getting hooked with this formula.
His blood left his face when Chiz Escudero was asked for his penchant for impeachment against GMA twice and Chief Justice Davide once, but never on Erap. On the Davide Impeachment, his stars were never noticed except the obvious biddings of his patron, the author of coco levy and President Marcos’ bagman, Danding Cojuangco. Returning to his chair, he was about to kick it. He never smiled since.
On the issue of dynasty, Edgardo Angara fumbles, stammers, and wanders and as an easy way out just campaigned for his kins who are right now also on the go by telling us that his governor-sister and congressman-son are high calibre Harvard–trained lawyers and the province of Aurora is in eternal gratitude. The Comelec’s cop-out on family members running side by side in one election is the dearth of anti-dynasty law. Asked on premature campaigning and there is that Fair Election Act regulating it, the election agency claims that the law does not define it adequately.
Tessie Oreta was stumped in choosing the best president between Erap and GMA.
The tabloid publisher Gang of Four member Prospero Pichay morphed into a rambling moron on how to handle his extra-marital affairs where they, hypothetically, found print in his equivalent newspapers. Just like Joe Pidal, the scoundrel with a court-issued permanent protective order, sought refuge under the hazy “right to privacy”.
Richard Gomez can’t live in a minute. He hurries to put his brains in 60 seconds tops. He said, had GMA, Noly de Castro, and the rest of her gang run this country best, Richard and his showbiz kinds, he spoke for Cesar Montano, won’t be slugging it out. “Kaya nga kami tumatakbo dahil mali ang pagpapatakbo ng gobyerno.”
The unmerciful camera pans on the panel and show us the detailed studies of incredulity, condescension, indifference. Winnie Monsod, who lost in a Senate race once upon a time, got her vengeance against those who bettered her. In these rare moments, the media felt like Nietzschean supermen. In ISANG TANONG, the press enjoyed the role of a surgeon, while the patients endured the unanaesthetized root canal drill.
But it was not entirely a ball for the patronizing panel and the show’s sponsors. They also got an unexpected beating from the most unexpected guest. They thought that they got him by the balls. His flamboyance was a give away, or so they supposed, and the show shall have its share of light moments.
Victor Wood came prepared. He was dapper in all-white and what passes off as a local dark 6-gallon. The interrogator let go an ordinary charitable question with punch line expectation: what is your legislative agenda once you get elected?
He had one full minute, he crossed his legs and drew a deep sigh. No matter how slow his delivery was he knew he could get across.
Wood said he was upset by the way we conduct our elections, especially the Senate contest. His brief campaign foray gave him a glimpse on the inanity of the exercise. He said as independents pitted against the well-oiled administration and opposition parties, they don’t stand a china man’s chance. Elections, according to him, are a regular democratic exercise that need nurturing. Without them, our democracy is a mockery. The state must insure that the people are well-informed for them to arrive at an intelligent choice. This spells good governance and may minimize corruption. A P200M campaign cost is disproportionate in the quest for a P350,000-a-year office. He said he does not understand why the government as owner of three TV (Channel 4, 11, and 13) together with their appurtenant AM/FM radio stations could not provide free air time to all the candidates. This way the people have access to their candidates without them being disrupted from their daily economic activities. Elections are no big deal. The so called fair-elections-act is a farce. By all indications the government intentionally deny the candidates of free air time with the tacit nod of the private TV stations. The loaded candidates queue up in ABS-CBN and GMA 7 and by adding up the commercial costs of the likes of Pichay amounts to billions of pesos. There is no sense to spending like mad.
A pall of bad news descended upon the panel. They realized that they didn’t have the smarts after all. It was the Gozon’s and the Jimenez’s bottom lines that went northward. Of course, Wood won’t go unpunished. The TV station mercilessly cut Wood’s opening spiels in its teaser before the 7-minute commercial break when asked about his take on the parliamentary system: “ah, hindi ko alam yan…” For a moment Wood appeared funny and clueless true to the plot of Channel 7 for having the gall of accusing them of profit motive.
The Wood’s homily puts on record that there are 12 Team Unity bets. One elections watch dog has placed the average expense of one aspirant at P97M on media exposure alone and we are not in the homestretch yet. We figure therefore that the President has at her disposal for the individual candidates alone some P1.2B. From the archives of the COMELEC we are taught that it spent for computerization some P1.2B in 2000 where the gizmos are now gradually in obsolescence in some warehouse costing the election agency monthly staggering storage fees.
With Wood’s surprising wisdom, it occurred to us why PAGCOR and PCSO are not into voter’s enlightenment as well. With Wood’s input it becomes increasingly expedient to allow the PAGCOR chairman himself to summon the resources of his agency to bankrolling a run for Makati mayorship. With PAGCOR’s annual billions plus the P7B yearly local taxes of Makati, the government’s gaming top honcho is near omnipotent. Wood is not suggesting that the tax returns of Chairman Genuino and his two sons be scrutinized. Running as congressman and councilor in the premier Philippine city is no walk in the park. Easily one needs P50M northward to keep decent sorties. That amount, it reminds us, is the benchmark for plunder prosecution. The Genuinos don’t impress as Makati’s top tax payers, do they?
At 18:00 GMT France closed its run-off presidential elections on May 5, 2007 between Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal. By 23:30 GMT on the same day, France proclaimed its new President. France has 44M voters, just like the Philippines. Our elections fall on May 14. With God’s grace we have a new set of Senators on July 30, 2007 after the COMELEC has settled the rightful twelfth senator. Whew!
With the Wood’s encounter, the participating media and the hosts of others hoped that those who watched, like the candidates with their skeletons, didn’t notice the glitch.
After the Ang Kapatiran, Victor Wood gets my vote.
Independents? We look at them as crazy men, like Don Quixote. Or comic reliefs like the 3 Stooges. But they allow us to think. They provide us the best, compact, perfect, near the area of truth answers.