A fever worse than Covid

File editorial cartoon by Jimbo Docena Albano

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Election fever! This is a kind of fever that is worse than Covid-19. As Covid-19 kills people and the economy, the election fever is killing the present and the future in ways we already know. And its effect is far more devastating, in the real sense of the word. But the election experience is a periodical sickening chapter of every Filipino’s life.

Nuisance along the streets

The streets are now decorated with the usual photoshopped smiling faces of local candidates whose messages didn’t evolve to be relevant to the times. The faces remind us of the recycled photoshoots of the many same-old-faces who look better in pictures than in real life. They have their smiles fixed on their tarpaulins, like celebrities, in art layouts that are keen with colors and taglines that are all part of their brand association. Their lousy use of mnemonics and acronyms to fit in their initials and other associative words are bordering from funny to non-sense, and mostly trying-hard. These are plain “uglification” of public views.

The worst part of this tarpaulin-based campaign is the harm it brings to the environment. How many tons of tarpaulins will be neglected after the election? Good if these non-biodegradable wastes may serve as useful cover on roofs and shelters. How many trees are hurt by their irresponsible posting, using nails and wires that will rust in the wounded trees? These tarpaulins are environmental hazards.

These attention-seeking tarpaulins may actually cause vehicular accidents, if their histrionic intentions succeed. Motorists may be curious to read their campaign lines and colorful displays and find them more interesting than the pedestrians and the road. These are safety hazards.

Those who pivot to resonate with the current pandemic situation are obviously insincere. The trying-hard messaging are wanting to be relevant with friendly reminders on many areas of the pandemic life – from the basic handwashing reminders, social-distancing protocols to more sensible mental health reminders. Others dare quote biblical lines as basis of hope. If they are indeed concerned in communicating these public service messages, why are they doing this a year after the onset of the pandemic when public education was more needed. They are heroes too late for the party.

Soon, the streets will be routes to the roving public address systems playing jingles and songs for the candidate. These vehicles carrying poor quality audio system will take the streets playing songs for name recall purposes. These songs are probably the bastardized versions of the popular songs of the past and present times. Some songs are actually violating the intellectual property rights of the composers. These are plain noise pollutants along the streets.

The Covid-19 scare is not scary enough to these politicians who are now going to the barrios and the barangays to make their presence felt. They come in usual glamorous image wearing their down-to-earth mask willing to hug and shake hands of everyone. The real scare is how they attract people to mass gather and interact. They want that attention. They wish to project that image that people gather to express their love for them. They know very well the meaning of the bandwagon effect. And they are very dangerous super-spreaders.

Soon, the national candidates will send their waves and swim across the archipelago to win the votes of the powerful electorate. But this election will surely be different. What will make the elections change is on how the millennials and the Gen Zers are seeing leaders, leadership and their power to choose.

Social Media Battle

The social media has become the new marketplace of ideas where political camps employ worshippers and bashers alike. They are engaging virtual battles, which heat up the sizzling summer and saturating the already-cluttered virtual space. From awkward Tiktok videos to the “feeling celebrity” videos, the aspiring public servants want to gain the attention of the voters. They are also riding on every opportunity to show off their engagement, including the community pantry and other activities in theme. Their messaging lacks the substance, not because it has no content, but because of the messenger who cannot connect with their audience who are aware of their fake communication strategies.

The same social media, which politicians are using, is the same social media that makes the general and discerning publics well informed. These politicians should learn the snake pit of social media, otherwise, they will be victims of their own ignorance.

The social media will be a major platform for the candidates to connect with the public. They should consult digital marketing experts instead of events organizers. They should find authentic endorsers and influencers in the community not anymore celebrity endorsers whose special media impact may not translate to votes.

The Missing Parts of the Puzzle

Authenticity and consistency are the missing parts of the puzzle. The authenticity and consistency are important elements of trust. Consistency is actually the cornerstone of trust. Trust is something gained, not solicited. Other politicians are like beggars of trust and are willing to risk the ridicule of the most powerful people in 2022 – the electorate. These are rare moments when the ordinary people become powerful for one special day. And that day will spell the power that will be upon this aspiring “public servant” who will spend three years of power and might.

At the onset of the pandemic, these politicians should have engaged in an authentic and honest-to-goodness pursuit of service. They should have taken advantage of the moment when their help was needed most. It is in crisis moment when the leaders shine brightest. It is the rough seas that define the best sailors.

Many politicians waited for this political season, which does not create an authentic environment to communicate genuine concern and care. Those who were felt during the lowest point of this pandemic experience will benefit from the recall of the authentic leadership that will be trusted.

The pandemic experience must have taught the Filipinos the best lessons of leadership. The rock bottom situation experienced by the Filipinos must have awakened the value of every single vote cast during election day. The value of service is not equated with its worth but with the intention for extending such. And it is never easy to fake that. Filipinos must have learned.

The real leaders are those who can communicate the vision that is shared by the people. And as the pandemic isn’t over yet, the search is still on as to who can best lead. The politicians should reinvent themselves based on the reflection of why they run for a position and what footprints they are intending to make along the way. And the answer “to serve,” isn’t something proven after the person is vested the trust. The willingness to serve becomes an antecedent to the trust that the electorate may give and translate in terms of votes.


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