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Saturday, April 14, 2007

the early bird: the case of premature electioneering by muntinlupa congressional bet dong puno

The 2007 Philippine election race is on…for some. For others, not just yet, but that does not stop these early birds from gaining advantage of supposedly disguised electioneering. The campaign for congressional candidates has yet to begin, but Atty. Dong Puno, among other fielders, effectively thrusts himself to the limelight of Muntinlupa politics through sponsoring activities and advertisements.
If only for the legislative qualifications that embody a true House solon, Atty. Puno is an easy shoo-in. He graduated with honors from the Ateneo de Manila University College of Law in 1969 and only two years hence, earned his Master of Laws degree from the Harvard Law School. As an author, he has written many legal articles published in several periodicals and journals. As a lawyer meanwhile, he practiced aviation and corporate law when he worked as Philippine Airlines’ Legal Officer and Personnel Director before assuming the national flagcarrier’s Vice-President and, eventually, General Counsel. As an academician, he became a professor of Corporation Law and of Wills and Succession at his Philippine alma mater. He now works as a senior partner of Puno & Puno Law Offices while enjoying popularity through the giant media network ABS-CBN, where he assumed various executive posts.
The former Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson of the Estrada government now wants to make a comeback in Philippine politics which he has started by sponsoring activities in his area of concern, Muntinlupa City in southern Metro Manila. The brand of Puno politics is nothing new to traditional politicians come election time: he does a house-to-house round in order to know the residents personally. Also, he has staged beneficiary concerts for residents such as free medical check-ups. He likewise spearheaded medical missions to show that he really cares (for the people or for the votes or for both depends on the view one holds toward the candidate). Finally, to boost what may be taken as a semblance of his media popularity, he goes around the city with artistas like sexy starlet Angelica Jones, in an obvious enticement of the celebrity-crazed electorate.
While the time for congressional candidacy advertisements has yet arrived, the road to the ultimate political momentum is already paved with colored intentions. First, he gives away T-shirts to residents. Next, his political machinery has mass-produced stickers and banners. One such banner reads “Congratulations from Atty. Dong Puno” with no one in particular to congratulate, except perhaps the graduating students and their parents who hopefully remember him like they did remember other politicians whenever the latter make similar greetings per election year. As March 30, 2007 sees light, ads saying “Dong Puno sa Kongreso…Muntinlupa” will have to see light too, come hell or high water. Capitalizing on the popularity of the rather nonsense song “Boom Tarat Tarat,” Puno will have a pun-intended campaign jingle entitled “Dong Tarat Tarat.” A little more time and the political ad campaigns shall unfurl, as the T-shirts, stickers and banners have initiated.
To gain more political visibility, Aty. Puno attends important ceremonies in Muntinlupa. For one, in particular schools’ graduation ceremonies wherein a multitude of voters may be highly probably present, he was present too. During the awarding of the Ten Most Outstanding Students of Muntinlupa, he was there possibly more than to reminisce and inspire the students with his own scholarly merits of old; he was present to share the outstanding students’ limelight and become visible in the process.
His speeches and platforms were more pronounced about his political blueprint. He has publicized a relocation plan benefiting 10,000 residents with homes along the “riles.” The site of Puno’s plan, however, can house only 70% of these people; no plan nor new site as yet has been drafted for the remaining 3,000. Using his legal expertise, he intends to abolish a bill proposed by other congressmen about doctors’ malpractice. Upon reviewing the bill, he threatens to file cases against the proponents, finding the bill useless. To whomever the bill was useless was not made clear.
Assessing Atty. Puno’s campaign in the light of most other politicians’ own election time stints, I can see that fate favors this candidate because he uses a formulaic campaign that is found to be effective in translating votes. Given that Filipinos are sociologically found to have a short memory span, it helps to remind them recurrently that this candidate is running for a post, with more care for the repetitive campaigning than for the bombardment the invasive promotion characterizes. It is deemed better to start the campaign early than be forgotten in the middle of the action, in which case election rivals of Puno might just steal the thunder from him. By election time, his chances are higher since he has a name-recall to the electorate, he having been a daily fare to them while they having been practically conditioned into remembering him via the give-aways, the ads, the concerts and the like. Since a cursory overview of the political landscape shows an unripe conclusion to the theory that the Filipino electorate vote wisely during elections, his method of campaigning—basking in popularity like most politicians, that is—more than his qualifications may bag him a seat in congress. While his previous brush with legal theories and practice have yet to benefit the public at-large, he promises to be a formidable legislator. But the more urgent question is: will his campaign charm enough votes to seat him in the House of Representatives?

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