Marion Salamanca

A good number of politician wannabes in Philippine show business are optimistic that the people will elect them despite the fall from grace of Estrada, the former actor who was booted out as president. But voters may not be that forgiving.
One would think that with the ouster of actor-turned-president Joseph Ejercito Estrada, showbiz denizens would shy away from the political limelight — at least, for now. But as Comelec records and the celebrity grapevine indicate, there is a flood of movie and television personalities vying for public office in the congressional, city, and municipal levels in he May elections.  Last we checked, more than 50 movie and television actors, actresses and celebrities have filed their candidacies or expressed their intention to run for public office.
Here’s a partial list: singer Imelda Papin, for congresswoman of Camarines Sur; singer Victor Wood, for congressman of Rizal; action star Gary Estrada, for congressman in Quezon province; comedian Roderick Paulate, for governor of Albay; action star Rudy Fernandez, for Quezon City mayor; actor-singer Tirso Cruz III, for mayor of Las Pinas City; actress Elizabeth Oropesa, for mayor of Guinobatan, Albay; singer and former bold star Cristina ‘Kring-kring’ Gonzales, for mayor of Tacloban, Leyte; Lani Mercado, actress and wife of Cavite governor Bong Revilla, for mayor of Bacoor, Cavite; actor Philip Salvador, for vice-mayor of Mandaluyong City;  actor Aga Muhlach, for vice-mayor of Muntinlupa; comedian and rapper Andrew E, for councilor of Las Pinas City; actress Aiko Melendez, for councilor of the second district of Quezon City; actor Jestoni Alarcon, for councilor of the fourth district of Antipolo City;  comedian Arnel Ignacio, for councilor of the fourth district of Quezon City;  actor Diether Ocampo, for councilor of Bacoor, Cavite; and singer Kuh Ledesma, for councillor of Manila.
The list does not include actors and celebrities seeking reelection: Vilma Santos, mayor of Lipa City; Joey Marquez, mayor of Paranaque City; Rey Malonzo, mayor of Kalookan City; Lito Lapid, governor of Pampanga; Bong Revilla, governor of Cavite, and Manila councilors Cita Astals, Isko Moreno, Robert Ortega, and Lou Veloso, to name a few.
Comelec rules state that any individual can run for public office for as long as he or she can read and write, is a Filipino citizen, and is a resident of the area where he or she hopes to get elected.  With these requirements, movie stars and other showbiz celebrities are legally qualified to seek any elective post.

A good number of politician wannabes in Philippine tinsel town are optimistic that the people will elect them despite the fall from grace of Estrada, who was booted out of office last January by way of People Power 2.
The former president was widely perceived as a corrupt, womanizing, crony-coddling politician, who was impeached by the House even before he was ousted from office.
Arnel Ignacio, a 37-year-old comedian and game show host aspiring for a council seat in Quezon City, says he is not bothered by the Estrada stigma.
At a recent edition of the popular talk show Mel and Jay, Ignacio said: “Maybe, this is the best time for an actor to run because of the events that transpired. The opportunists would back out because of the bad image of actors. So those who will run have pure intentions.”
Ignacio, who took up Theater Arts at the University of the Philippines and is the owner of Arnelli’s Pizza, said that he had been thinking about running for public office even while still a newcomer in the entertainment industry.
“I already thought of running in 1984 or 1985, when I was still a host in sing-a-long bars. The first time I saw a child picking garbage, that made me realized I have to do something.”
He added that he feels there are many things that he can contribute but cannot do so for as long as he is just a comedian. Other celebrities got testy when talk shifted to their chances, which may be affected by the downfall of Estrada. Comedienne Cita Astals, in a television interview, abruptly dismissed any comparison with Estrada, saying that “there will be bad people in every profession.  So let’s not get too hasty when we point fingers.”
Actor Jestoni Alarcon said people shouldn’t judge because each person has his own personality. “They do not know me.  Maybe, the people who know me most are the people I want to help.  Even before this, I have been helping people but it’s just not that well publicized.  So, they shouldn’t generalize.”Singer Victor Wood is very confident he will land a congressional seat in Rizal.  “I figured very strongly in the surveys. I think that’s because I have been doing public service since 1995,” Wood said.To further boost his chances, the actor, who, for the longest time was rumored to have been killed during the time of deposed President Marcos, recently joined a painting exhibit that focused on nature.  His contribution:  paintings of woods and other tree landscapes.

Built-In Advantage
Critics say that popularity is the only reason why actors and actresses get themselves elected.  It is a built-in advantage that many celebrities recognize and hope to capitalize on come election day. Said 25-year-old actress Aiko Melendez: “It (popularity) is an advantage.  I want to use my popularity for a good cause like what Princess Diana did.  Our advantage is that we have the name recall, our life is an open book, people know a lot about us.”  Melendez, the live-in partner of Jomari Yllana, added, however, that popularity also has its downside. “The disadvantage is that our mistakes are magnified and noticed.  As an artista, what we do is magnified,” Melendez said. This early, the young actress has been getting flak for her lapses in the use of the English language and her so-called “belated attempts to appear civic-minded.” One critic, for example, cited a television interview on Aiko’s project for leprosy patients. When asked about the project, the beautiful Melendez replied: “If you have leprosy, people get icky about you.  But when you think of the deeper (sic), one pat on the shoulder of these people can last them a lifetime.”
For her part, semi-retired actress and singer Lani Mercado said she has learned to use her popularity for the common good. Mercado, whose governor husband is a key player in the perpetuation of the Revilla political dynasty in Cavite, makes no qualms about her capacity to be an effective mayor of Bacoor town because she is, after all, married to the governor of the province. Explained Mercado:  “My experience as First Lady of Cavite province taught that when the mayor is not in good terms with the governor, nothing gets done. There is teamwork when the mayor and the governor cooperate.”


Many are of the belief that celebrities will fare badly in the May 12 electoral exercise.  Some cannot contain their disgust and have come up with quite picturesque comments on actors, actresses, and other celebrities seeking public office.  Others are more sober in their responses and are in fact open to giving artists a chance to become elected public officials. “They (celebrities) should be shot.  And those who survive should be shot again.  Male celebs may be allowed to run for as long as they are prepared to eat their balls.  Otherwise, they should also be shot,” says JB Deveza, a student from Cagayan de Oro.
Roger Aguirre, an editor of an scholastic magazine, said:  “They don’t stand a chance because they’re all a bunch of clowns.  They don’t know the difference between wearing makeup and showing their real face. They should be burned at the stake.”
Princess Laosantos from UP has this to say:  “I don’t want to generalize but some of them are just really banking on their popularity despite the fact that they very well know that they are dimwits.  We just have to be wise so as not to encourage the rotten ones because we can’t afford the likes of Ramon Revilla, Tito Sotto and, God have mercy, another Erap.”
Joy Santos, project development officer of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD): “I will not discriminate against actors and actresses running for public office.  It really depends on the qualifications of the showbiz celebrity.  I will look at their character and track record.  Not all actors and actresses are bad.  For as long as I feel they can contribute to the betterment of the country, we will give them our vote.”
Veron Dionisio, a staff of the PCI Bank and part-time feature writer for the Philippine Daily Inquirer: “I don’t want to discriminate against them just because they’re moviestars.  Despite what happened in the past, I’d like to give them a fair chance.  I’d look into their platform and qualifications.” Dina Po, cultural activist, is more forgiving:  “Artists are citizens too and thus must be part of nation building.  Being such, artists should have the consciousness that they have the specific responsibility to communicate messages which are geared toward enlightening and educating the people about social realities– issues and problems confronting the country, and to be concerned about these.  This they should do without prejudice to truth, justice and the interest of the Filipino people.  The arts and media are the transmitters of culture.  Artists play a unique and important role in the transformation of culture; a culture that is responsive to the needs of the people; a nationalist and liberating culture that will sustain the people’s tactical victories as it smoothens the road towards a truly independent and progressive Philippine nation. Now then, should we vote for artists,  specifically movie/TV personalities?  If their principle reflects those of the people’s interests and welfare; if they envision a free, democratic and progressive society with a nationalist, people-oriented and liberating culture; if their platform includes social transformation that addresses the basic problems of our country; if their actions are congruent to upholding these principles, to the attainment of their vision and to the facilitation of their platform – why not?”