Note: I wrote this article nine years ago when I was one of a few in bringing this political campaign trash to the public. I remember friends telling me, oh john, you are so balikbayan, don't get so upset about it. The rains will wash them away.
But there are changes for the good. For this campaign year, the Philippine Inquirer has an article about illegal postering every other day. Provincial newspapers have those stories too. And last Sunday Feb 21, 2010, the Manila Bulletin has illegal postings as the headline. Public consciousness grows. Please bombard the FB's and e mails of any candidate who breaks the law! Scare them. And tell them this orgy of posters is the worse example of carbon footprint! Thanks.
(Appeared in Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 2001)
By John L. Silva
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo must put a stop to the wanton and indiscriminate posting of campaign materials throughout the country. She and her party candidates should lower the tinted glass of their car windows to see what our country looks like today. It is as if someone has gone amuck plastering campaign posters in every nook and cranny of the country. The posters assault all sensibilities as they are pasted haphazardly like bad wallpaper.
On the first downpour and with inadequate glue, the posters buckle, peel and flutter aimlessly. Enraged citizens tear at them and write graffiti. The country has just been transformed into a national eyesore.
Have any of the people power candidates gone back to the EDSA shrine recently, dubbed by Cardinal Sin as a holy place? It was only a month and a few weeks ago when hundreds of thousands converged at this point and every morning, thousands of enlightened volunteers would clean up the place for the next rally. People power was people discipline and love for cleanliness. Now, look at the sacred place. Posters of “people power’ candidates are mercilessly glued on cement, on posts and every available space. A visitor wanting to see where EDSA II consolidated would be dismayed and horrified. The sacred place, dear Cardinal, now looks like a pigsty.
First of all, campaign posting in undesignated areas is illegal plain and simple. Abetting an illegal act by the President’s own political party casts doubts about her party’s commitment to abide by the law. For someone who recently had to prove constitutional authority to be president, all the way up to the Supreme Court, a simple campaign law being broken with no intervention on her part strongly suggests inconsistency, using the law when it fits the circumstances.
Look closely at where the posters are pasted: they are found on every column of the new MRT line, on waiting bus and jeepney sheds, on factory walls, on lampposts and telephone lines and, with cruel abandon, in squatter and lower income communities. The assault in uglifying the country is most evident where the poor and workers commute, at their job sites and where they live. Ironically, activist organizations and party list organizations have joined the fray and are illegally pasting posters like the traditional politicians.
Yet, these same posters are not found in the enclaves of the rich or outside their offices. And I would wager that none of these same lawbreaking candidates or the President would want their posters pasted on the wall of their villas or Malacanang Palace. These candidates, by their actions, reveal themselves to be anti-poor, despising and disrespecting the constituents they are supposed to be courting.
Yet when asked, the poor and working people do want a clean and aesthetically pleasing environment. Notice in the poorest of slums, in the most remote of barrios, there exists community attempts to clean their surroundings and beautify it with plants even if they sprout from rusted cans. Yet, every election time, they are absolutely powerless to the onslaught of posters dirtying up their clean neighborhoods, only adding to their cynicism with politicians. In some cases they ape the juvenile practices of these politicians.
Why is there graffiti on walls throughout our country? Youths do it because every election time, their own walls are covered illegally with posters from so-called want-to-be lawmakers. After awhile, the youths cannot distinguish the words “lawmakers” from “lawbreakers.”
There is a surreal situation occurring each day in Manila in a 24-hour span. On the road to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport each morning, the newly appointed Secretary of Tourism, Dick Gordon, has been fielding hardworking volunteers and city maintenance employees to pick up trash, dab a new coat of paint on walls and street islands to welcome tourists to a clean city. Later, in the dead of night, there is a band of roving thugs, plastering illegal campaign posters right on the newly painted walls. Secretary Gordon was specifically chosen as tourism czar because of his record in attracting foreign investors. But in actuality, with no enforcement banning campaign posters on public walls, the Arroyo Administration’s tourism campaign shoots itself in the foot as horrified tourists see a blighted ugly city full of dirty peeling campaign posters.
Election campaigns in neighboring Thailand have a sensible approach. Campaign posters are fastened by string to thin poles plunged to the ground and properly spaced from one another. The day after elections, the poles and the posters are easily removed and the city instantly returns to normalcy. Is there perhaps a correlation to a clean Thailand getting 8 million visitors a year and rising, and dirty, defaced Philippines barely making 2 million for the past how many years?
What do foreign investors look for when they check out a potential country? Aside from comparative wage levels, language proficiency and ROI tables, they’re looking at tell tale signs of discipline, order, and even cultural levels as they mentally prepare to be expats in the country. Imagine, (it is not hard to do so) a foreign investor is chauffeured from the airport through a city with no respect for red lights and seeing half-glued, flailing, campaign posters of candidates who once launched coups, tortured prisoners, or been publicly declared as mentally unfit. Imagine the investor driving by seeing these same posters of dubious candidates stuck on walls with signs saying no peeing, yet at that moment are being peed upon. Imagine the investor driven on Roxas Boulevard whose graceful palm trees now have posters hammered to their trunks. Imagine the investor driven past a spanking new National Museum whose walls are now desecrated with the toothy grin of candidates. No matter how debonair, how sophisticated and worldly Secretary of Trade Mar Roxas may be, the investor has just witnessed a country of unbridled anarchy with little regard for its cultural heritage. The investor reaches his hotel suite only to pounce on the concierge to book the next flight out of here.
Many, maybe most of those who participated in People Power II did so not just to rid the country of an incompetent but also to begin a new regime of revitalized morals, standards and most importantly, the exercise of basic civilities and laws. President Arroyo and her party can actually gain political advantage over their opponents by declaring an end to illegal campaign posting. This perennial trashing of a country in a campaign year is the hallmark of past traditional politics. A whole country – except the rich subdivisions - struggling to be beautiful and self-respecting is the victim of this depredation. It would be an opportunity for the President to take the high moral and aesthetic ground to eliminate this abominable national exercise in self-hate and, once and for all, send a powerful signal to her constituents that traditional and detestable campaigning practices are a thing of the past.
Do people really vote on the strength of posters pasted indiscriminately, beside piles of uncollected garbage, barely seen under overpasses, buried with Lose/Add Weight posters and Tubero phone numbers? Even the most mentally challenged see these posters today solely as clutter rather than helpful name recalls. Aside from the trash it produces, one can’t help but think how many precious trees were sacrificed for the elusive vanity of politicians seeing their mugshots and baptismal names on urinated walls.
If in the next few weeks, this garbage on the walls proliferate even more, let every citizen do their people power duty like they did at EDSA. Write “Trapo” on their posters for all fellow citizens to see. Then after a few days, scrape them and put them in a trash bag. To make a point, deliver the trash to the campaign headquarters of the candidates or if necessary, to Malacanang. Document your defaced wall and have your civic group file a motion to disqualify the candidate. Organize your association to sue candidates who have littered your walls without permission. You pay association fees. Now, demand they pay to repaint your walls.
We are given one country to love and honor. Let us not dirty it for the sake of senseless advertising. Candidates will win through persuasive arguments and a good track record and not through defiling a country. President Arroyo -if not her – then every citizen, must put an end to the illegal and offensive pasting of campaign posters if only to prove their genuine ardor for a despoiled and pitiful land.
John L. Silva is a consultant to the National Museum