Thailand is currently experiencing a political struggle because of one very mundane reason (of course there are some other reasons, but let us focus on this): a prime minister holding a cooking show.
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Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej was removed from office after a huge public outcry, the reason being one of the many is because of his cooking show. According to Thai Constitution it is illegal for any member of the Executive to work for any private companies during his term of office. The cooking show being one of these private entities that a government official must never involve himself in.
In the Philippines, although this kind of law is non-existent, it is left to the politician’s delicadeza (sense of shame, sense of proper and improper) whether he still would host a show or endorse a product despite the public nature of his role. It is unimaginable for a true statesman to endorse a laundry powder or a brand of brandy.
Unimaginable, not at all; they do occur and these products are endorsed by no less than the supposed to be honorable nationally-elected senators.
All of a sudden the demarcation between politics and show business becomes too faint that not only actors and actresses cross the line and become politicians but also politicians seeing that the grass on the other side of the wall is as green albeit a different shade of green, they followed suit and ended up as product endorsers.
In Iloilo, a province in the central Philippines, politicians would never allow themselves to be left out in this hype of endorsing products. The vice mayor of the city, Jed Mabilog, smiled like a movie star in his billboard endorsing batchoy, a local noodle concocted with tasty soup and pig entrails.
These huge posters featuring the vice mayor thumbing up before a bowl of batchoy and a plate of pan de sal are found along Iznart Street and facades of leading department stores in the city. A vice mayor sharing the spirit of his public office with a bowl of batchoy. A process of hybridizing of what is supposed to be a public entity and the commercial sphere creating a totally laughable concoction of farce aimed at profitability.
Another city councilor, Jam Baronda, proudly posed while she is riding a delivery motorbike of a local company that specializes in Ilonggo chicken barbeque.
Again a political move, that is if it can be considered as a political move, that is too difficult to understand.
In an ad communication process, it is the product endorser that shares his integrity, credibility, and name to the product; but in the cases above, considering that these Ilonggo products have established their names in terms of the quality of service and the goods they sell, it made me think whether a bowl of bathoy or a stick of chicken inasal is bestowing on these politicians their long respected names. These politician’s credibility grounded on no less than a bowl of local noodle and chicken inasal.
I do not think that these politicians (for calling them statesmen would be an insult to the real statesmen that this nation has produced) are financially needy. Endorsing a detergent or a local dish is going to be a negligible addition to their financial coffer. In the Philippines, wealth is a prerequisite for running in a public office so it’s a given that politician are wealthy, at least relatively.
Philippine politics is a hybrid of glitzy world of the stars and an equally controversial political arena. Sometimes, an ordinary citizen will have a hard time distinguishing the two entities; or an actor from a politician for both act so well, at least in field other than true acting.
A commodity, say barbecue or alcoholic beverage, even batchoy are dependent on marketing strategies in order for them to compete in a consumerist society. They must be strategically positioned so that the intended market will purchase them, and if necessary do repeat purchases thereby ensuring the product’s success. This product positioning utilizes different kind of marketing strats such as making use of a trusted person that will speak of the product’s good qualities. In this case, doctors, prominent stars, sport figures predominantly comprise the list of top product endorsers.
Public servants hold a very sacred role in the society. In a democracy they have even bigger responsibility.
Endorsing a product is not one of them.
Going back to this Filipino concept of delicadeza, apparently our politicians, both national and local, are found wanting of this. Instead, they compensated this with kapal ng mukha (shamelessness). Public service in general, and politicians in particular are not commodities to be marketed with a corresponding monetary value. It is a sacrilegious.
It may be hopeless to speak of delicadeza in these times when a politician is not anymore expected to have this character.
Just let me try, nonetheless.