SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. - The Philippine Star

The opening salvos from some of our national and local supplicants during this silly season have us scratching our heads. All of a sudden, there is no such word as “audacity” since gimmicks seemed to have taken disproportionate precedence over substance.

But this is how it has always been. In republican governments, to be a representative one needs authorization from the represented. Political campaigns are designed to influence the decision makers, we the voters, to agree with or like the candidate enough to entrust him with our votes. If the trust is not repaid, then it’s on us.

With the progressive difficulty of getting heard above the din, any means of getting the message across has become fair game. Hence, the aphorism when things go south about “getting the government we deserve.” This may be its ugly face but campaigning is a legitimate political activity that can also be a rewarding experience.

First person account. The campaign period has been a family ritual all my life. My father was involved in over 20 elections from 1957 to 2016 as candidate, campaign manager, supporter, financier, campaigner. Three of his five children, myself included, followed his path. He had his share of victories as well as defeats.

My earliest recollection was of his successful 1971 senatorial campaign. The image is of my father in red shirt jack with navy blue collar, Nacionalista party colors, gesticulating onstage to a standing microphone before hundreds of strangers. Mom was backstage. My brothers and I, in our matching outfits, kept busy collecting the different T-shirts, handbills, cardboard fans, combs and campaign button pins handed out. Of course, our favorites were stickers and decals. I was 7 years old.

Flickers. Martial law followed. The next electoral exercise came in 1978 for the Interim Batasang Pambansa (the transitional legislature of the 1973 Constitution’s shift to parliamentarism). My father banded with fellow senators Ninoy Aquino, Soc Rodrigo, Monching Mitra, future senators Neptali Gonzales, Tito Guingona, Nene Pimentel together with fellow freedom fighters to form the original Lakas ng Bayan (Laban) for Metro Manila’s 21 seats.

My eldest brother and I served as his aides at the nightly rallies and daily meetings. No more stickers and handbills. If at all, we would lead teams of volunteers distributing these propaganda at campaign sites. It was a struggle to get responses to the courage candidates displayed at these “guerilla” hustings. Audiences listened but warily stood in their doorways and sat by their windows rather than crowd in front of the makeshift stages which were mostly back beds of pick-up trucks. At times, soap boxes and bullhorns instead of sound systems to amplify the hail-mary speeches.

Posterity records the outcome of this fight as a defeat for Laban’s David. But in the bigger picture, the fall triggered a rise for future mass action, beginning with the famous noise barrage of 1978 which validated Metro Manilans’ true sentiments.

Flames. The 1984 regular elections for Batasang Pambansa came next. I was 20 years old and my understanding of campaigns had broadened. My father was national campaign manager for the umbrella opposition party UNIDO. There was a sense of the possible, fueled by the disenchantment which senator Ninoy Aquino’s assassination the previous year had given voice to.

Here, I learned that a campaign was more than just speeches. The candidate is the face of the campaign and his/her only worry was to go where he/she was told to go and deliver the message. But there was an entire organization (size depending on resources) behind the scenes. Scheduling, giving assignments to volunteers and team leaders, arranging tri-media appearances (ads and social media management were far in the future), postering (no tarps yet) and other propaganda, air, land & sea transport, motorcades, finance, ways & means, the local machineries to approach. They would recommend the permutations to attempting to secure a win: the command votes vs. the opponent’s base votes; whether to just follow the agenda of the ticket or to gather insurance votes on your own effort, positive vs negative campaigning, etc.

I saw even the revered Justice Cecilia Muñoz-Palma, ret., first woman Associate Justice of the High Court, delivering speeches in Quezon City depressed areas from the back of pickup trucks (she got elected). In Manila, the battle for six legislative seats had the opposition ultimately winning 5 to 1. It was memorable for being my first in-person exposure to the crucible of Plaza Miranda.

Rebuilding. My father returned to the Senate via the 1987 senatorial election. My brothers and I were given different roles – the younger ones as aides while I was assigned to head the campaign’s Youth arm. At 23, I was old enough to deliver a few stump speeches to smaller crowds.

My own baptism as candidate was at the restoration of Metro Manila’s local legislative councils in 1988. It was my introduction to the personalized house-to-house method for my Manila campaign. I was also exposed to the different styles of speech delivery (as speaker now rather than as listener), depending on the audience. From addressing thousands (with my own Plaza Miranda moment) to more intimate talks with naked voice before a neighborhood fiesta or at a restaurant function room with microphone and speaker. 50 shades of, among others, cadence, tempo, articulation, pitches and pauses, amplification. After me, my brother, Congressman Edward, with his tours of duty in City Council before a successful bid for Congress where he now serves Manila in his second term.

Lessons. Campaigns, all in all, can be a rich experience. Surely, they can contribute to your growth in organizational knowledge, public speaking, teamwork, initiative, interpersonal relationships. They are venues for the birth of lasting friendships.

Asking to be trusted should be a simple task. Given what I’ve learned, the best course is really just to be yourself. A sure-fire way to ensure your message is heard is to speak it sincerely. Responsible voters are smart enough to discern the authentic from the sham. This is why very few stood out from the extravaganzas of the past week.


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