THANKS to Brad Pitt and the movie Troy, we were reminded of what happened to the ancient Trojans who made the grievous mistake of allowing the Trojan Horse to be brought into their city. For that bad decision, they lost their city, national identity and most of them lost their lives.
Well, in case you’re not aware of it, these days some people are selling us the equivalent of a Trojan Horse. If we make the mistake of the Trojans and allow ourselves to be sold this garbage, we could well lose our country and encounter more misery in our lives.
In the last three weeks we saw the escalation of the media campaign batting for Charter Change or Cha Cha. Even the current crisis in the Middle East was not spared and was exploited to make a pitch for the Cha Cha, albeit a patently false and deceitful claim.
I wonder what ever happened to the Broadcast Media Standards that enforce truth in television and radio advertising. When I was still a CEO for an ad agency in the early 1980s, we used to present our commercials to an ad industry screening body that judges if all the claims in the commercial are true and verifiable. The screening body is run by our peers in the ad industry so you can be sure that the jurors are knowledgeable when it comes to all the tricks in the book.
When you come across a pro-Cha Cha television commercial, you almost get the impression that the Cha Cha is as momentous to the life of the Filipino as the promised second coming of Christ. You need not be a political analyst to realize that the claims of the Cha Cha proponents are not within the scope of benefits that Cha Cha can deliver. The truth is the masterminds behind Cha Cha are not the people who will initiate reform. Cha Cha is all about preserving the status quo, not upset it.
Thus far, I’ve come across four pro-Cha Cha television commercials. I’m told that these TV commercials are all supported by big print ads in the major dailies. The amount of money needed to produce these TV commercials and the primetime spots on which these are aired should easily run to hundreds of millions of pesos, a giveaway that behind Cha Cha are the moneyed elite.
The first television commercial (TVC) attempts to putdown their nemesis which is of course One Voice, the anti-Cha Cha civil society group. It aims to define One Voice as "super-elite." The TVC starts by showing people meant to represent the elite, all of them clad in flashy clothing. Then other people who are meant to represent the public, squeeze through this gathering, and voice out questions about their future, jobs, education, and so forth. It plays on the theme of the old rich versus the poor.
Another TVC shows a birthday party where the Lola (granny), the celebrant, is gifted with a new mug to replace her old cracked piece. If you ask a veteran former ad man like me, that is a poor attempt to depict something new—like the Cha Cha they’re trying to project—to replace what they portray as the old, broken, failed system.
The third TVC shows a female Overseas Filipino Worker or OFW dressed in the conservative Muslim garb, with eyes and hands as the only body parts being shown. She is identified with a name but one doesn't really know if she's for real. She tearfully delivers the usual lament about having to go abroad because she's desperate. Again the thesis is that Charter Change equates to an improved economy, more jobs here and therefore happy united families.
The fourth TVC shows a series of events that are associated with political turmoil—among these are the Estrada ouster, Oakwood mutiny and the recent street protests. This TVC capitalizes on public crisis fatigue and offers Cha Cha as the solution for political stability.
What are wrong in all these pro-Cha Cha television commercials? These are as wrong as attempting to project 80 proof malt whiskey as milk. Will you feed your baby malt whiskey?
The greatest misrepresentation of these pro-Cha Cha television commercials is that they pretend to bring real, meaningful change for the better—emphasis on Real, Meaningful And Better.
Look at the faces of those congressmen who enforced the tyranny of numbers to stifle the truth about Madame Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s legitimacy to sit as president—the truth that will free our nation from this crisis that stalls our economy and is undermining our democracy. They all know that the majority of Filipinos want to attain closure of this issue and thus get the country going. Do they care about what all of us want?
Now these will be the same people who will man your new parliament if and when you make the mistake of reverting to a parliamentary system. That parliament, in effect, will make them more powerful as you will then be giving them both legislative and executive functions of government.
Does that strike you as real change? Do you think that the change to a parliament will usher in meaningful reforms to our country? Now that they will be more powerful, do you really think that the economy will take off?
Has it occurred to you that these are the faces or the factors of the very oligarchs who have monopolized the power, wealth, opportunities and resources of our country which is why we have so few of them who have too much and so many of our people who have so little? Our country’s struggle is all about freeing ourselves from their grip and greed. Now will Cha Cha accomplish that or will it serve to perpetuate them and their interests?
These oligarchs brought about this drought of economic opportunities which is why millions of Filipinos are now separated from their loved ones to work overseas, even at the risk of being killed or maimed in war zones like Iraq, Lebanon and Somalia. Are we now to believe that because we will shift to a parliamentary form of government—where they will become even more powerful—that they will suddenly be enlightened like Paul of Tarsus and deliver us from the mess that they themselves created?
Does that strike you as logical? Can you believe that? Will you trust them?
They paint a rosy picture where there will be more business activities, more jobs and more money in our hands. Do you really believe that our businessmen and those much sought after foreign investors will relish the thought of dealing with all these oligarchs? How can that happen when oligarchs feast on cornering the juiciest business opportunities and these are in conflict with what investors seek—the opening of markets? Will the foreign investor feel welcomed in a country run by an oligarchy that does not relish competition?
Will the parliamentary system not promote instead a capital flight as our businessmen would then rather setup shop somewhere else where there is a level playing field? This era of globalization allows them to do business anywhere so why should they risk it here? Why will they slug it out in our country where the infrastructure leaves much to be desired, where employers cannot fire lazy or incompetent workers and where those who control political power will serve as their biggest competitors in business? Why do business here when there is China, Malaysia, Singapore and even Vietnam which until 1973 was a war zone and now has overtaken us?
Really, when I think about it, the only truth that I detect in all these pro-Cha Cha advertising is their claim of “Bagong Buhay, Bagong Bayan.” (New Life, New Country). However this is true not in the context of what they are trying to project. If and when we make these people more powerful, we may as well seek a new life in a new country.
You may email William M. Esposo at: firstname.lastname@example.org