Desperados: Bato and Bong Go go for show biz

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SOME candidates in the 2019 senatorial elections have become so desperate that they have invaded film and television – very influential mediums – to gain the attention—and affection—of voters. Indeed, Marshall McLuhan’s theory proves right when he said that the medium is the message.

Former police chief Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa and Christopher Bong Go, who used to be a special assistant to President Duterte, have been added to the list of candidates who have been subjects of TV or movie biopics which have been seen as attempts to prop up their candidacies. The former is through film, while the latter is through an episode of television drama anthology, “Maalaala Mo Kaya” (MMK).

Even before its release, the movie on De la Rosa’s life has already earned the ire of film critics, who have condemned it as a form of premature campaigning. Some sector have even called for a boycott of the film.

Critic Rolando Tolentino has said that “there is something to be said when filmmakers, artists and intellectuals become employees and cohorts of fascist politicians and the fascist state.”

And as it seemed, the call for a boycott on the life of the police chief, who led the President’s bloody war against drugs which has resulted in thousands of deaths, including children, turned out a success. The movie was immediately pulled out of the Greenbelt theaters in Makati, after a low turnout of viewers.

The film allegedly features how the Davao-born police rose from poverty—a cliché narrative in many politicians’ campaign advertisements.

Obviously, this type of narrative just intends to show that Bato is among those inspiring people who know the concerns of the poor. Just like any campaign, this could just be a bait and switch, and the narrative could be a way of putting a misleading spin to create a good image of de la Rosa.

I just wonder if the film also shows Bato’s spearheading of President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial drug war. Of course, we do not know which parts of this film—if not true—are sugarcoated.

Similarly, Go’s life story being shown in MMK last Feb. 9 was nothing but an attempt to influence voters in the upcoming midterm polls. The episode, titled “Steak,” highlights Go’s close relationship with then-Davao mayor Duterte, whom Go considers an influential mentor.

The episode also included scenes showing how public service consumes much of Go’s time being a special assistant of Duterte, which often results in Go sacrificing his time for his family. These particular scenes could be Go’s pomposity that tries to convey the message that he is a man of public service and a long-time personal aide of the President.

McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” posits that the medium itself is embedded in the message it conveys or transmits. People’s reception of the message has been influenced by the medium.

This media theory applies to De la Rosa and Go’s employment of the film and television mediums to boost their campaign. The message in these mediums is very clear: vote for these senatorial aspirants.

It is now up to the viewers if they will believe in these biopics on TV and film. More and more, Philippine democracy has been adulterated by TV and film entertainers and clowns crossing over to politics and politicians and harlequins crossing over to show biz.

The unholy alliance between show biz and politics should stop. Filipino voters should stop traditional politics and screwball show biz from transforming Philippine democracy into a circus.

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