Fake candidates, fake authenticity

Objectively look at those aspiring to be senators of the Republic, and many of them are either essentially fake candidates or those with fake authenticity.

Two are obviously fakes, succeeding so well in their deception that they are rating high in surveys.

Filipinos will not really be voting for one balikbayan named Mrs. Llamanzares, who spent most of her working life in the United States as product manager of CSS Scientific in Virginia and as procurement liaison officer for the US Geological Survey, and got married to a fellow OFW, one Teodoro employed there at a defense contractor company and who is now with San Miguel Corp.’s telecoms unit. If Mrs. Llamanzares wins, she’ll be the first ever and probably the last movie and TV censor to become Senator of the Republic.

Filipinos though would be actually voting not for Mrs Llamanzares but for somebody they have been deluded to believe is the daughter of the fictional Ang Panday, the swashbuckling warrior, or the working class hero in so many movies: Mary Grace, adopted daughter of the late Fernando Poe, Jr. Her TV ads even emphasize this, where she visits a family in whose home a movie poster of Ang Panday prominently hangs. She herself noted that it was only when she dropped her married name Llamanzares that her ratings shot up.

Mr. Poe, by most accounts was a reserved introvert who minded his own business, both figuratively and literally (the very successful FPJ Productions). “FPJ” however as a presidential candidate ion 2004 was a fake one, concocted by the Estrada forces to win the presidency in 2004, which the former president thought was his last chance to stay out of jail. Many Filipinos were fooled in seeing his movie persona—the mythical warrior Ang Panday or the working class hero with his sweat towel around on his neck—for “Ronnie” who was fond of expensive designer jeans, was never interested in any social crusade, and abhorred politics.

Yet many Filipinos had equated Poe with his screen roles of a man fighting for the masses, which is as delusional as believing that Sylvester Stallone is Rambo or Rocky, or that the Austrian professional body-builder Arnold Schwarzenegger is Conan, or the Terminator. Those voting for Grace Poe take this confusion to a higher level: the fiction of a Grace Poe is based on the fiction of Ang Panday.

Imagine Stallone’s daughter Sophia running for the US senate, projecting herself as Rambo’s daughter, her Dad behind her in her campaign ads wearing his trademark black headband and brandishing an Armalite. Ridiculous? That’s what Grace’s electoral bid is like.

The phenomenon of confusing the reel for the real is one instance of modern late capitalism’s phenomenon that has been made possible because of the power of media. French sociologist Jean Baudrillard (in his seminal work “Simulacrum and Simulation”) and Italian semiologist and novelist Umberto Eco called it “hyperreality”: The inability of modern media-bombarded man to distinguish reality (Mr. Poe and Mrs. Llamanzares) from a simulation of reality (Panday and his daughter).

The second fake candidate is the son of the most business-minded scion of a political clan, who had the skill of being favored under every post-Marcos administration. This businessman seemed to have become so rich that his son didn’t need to work, and instead has devoted his adult life so far in philanthropic activities, which obviously has been part of his clan’s game-plan for him to appear to be some kind of crusader.

He and his family lobbied furiously to get him a post in the Arroyo administration to gain some visibility, although he himself hasn’t been able to claim any notable achievement in his post, and now bad-mouths the former president.

Filipinos wouldn’t choose him in surveys by any stretch of imagination. Except that they are not voting for this person, but —as in the case of Ang Panday’s daughter—a simulation of the slain martyr of democracy, Benigno Aquino, Jr.

Senatorial candidate Paolo “Bam” Aquino (Paul Aquino’s son) is even taking his impersonation of his assassinated uncle to its absurd extent. He changed his glasses and even his hair, for Chrissakes, to look like Ninoy, a feat his cousin the President couldn’t and thus is green with envy.

Who are, Jack Enrile, Nancy Binay, JV Ejercito, Sonny Angara but simulations of their fathers, constructs in Philippine hyperreality?

Hyperreality can be made widespread only with the power of media: It is not coincidental that these simulations of candidates so far have been the biggest political-ad spenders.

“Fake authenticity” on the other hand, is actually so common in our mundane lives. It is a brand-new Levi’s jeans made to look so worn out by certain machines, so that its wearer projects the image that the he is a rugged outdoorsman. It is the repro furniture left out in the sun in the rain for a month to look like an antique.

In the current election season, it is the fake authenticity of billionaire heiress Jamby Madrigal in her TV ads where she is depicted as an aktibista braving water blasts from anti-riot firemen’s hoses.

It is the fake authenticity of Ana Theresia Baraquel with her contrived trademark shawl she wears even in the heat of summer, on top of a truck smiling ear-to-ear with President Aquino at flood-stricken victims August last year as if she were paying for the relief goods. It is Baraquel’s fake authenticity to project herself as a new-politics activist when it is the ruling power, and especially Mr. Aquino who has been funding her rent-a-demonstration party Akbayan as well as her senatorial candidacy now. It is the fake authenticity of Edgardo Angara, Jr. as he wears a yellow camisa chino shirt, to project the preposterous notion that he is a working farmer.

Baraquel in fact represents a new generation of senators and senatorial of candidates with fake authenticity: Those who acquired name-recall by being at the forefront of the furious anti-Arroyo lynch mobs since 2005, among whom are Francis Escudero, Alan Cayetano, and of course Antonio Trillanes, the Navy lieutenant who made mutiny a career path toward the Senate. Everyone seems to forget that it was Escudero who was so vociferous against the EVAT law that he led those who filed a case at the Supreme Court to junk it. Well, it was that value added tax which saved us from the 2009 global depression and remains the biggest factor for the economy’s stability in the past two years.

What a silly, silly election.