Lights, camera, election

Celebrity candidates have added glamour to the Philippines elections.


    Goma insists he is not part of a political circus
    A frenzied crowd in Manila fights for a glimpse of "Goma".

    More commonly known as Richard Gomez, he is one of the best known movie stars in the  Philippines and is running for election to the country's senate.

    He says it is the Filipino people that have put him on the top of the "royalty in show business and it is now my time to give it back to them. Let me be of service to these Filipino people".

    Forty five million registered voters will head for the polling stations on May 14 to choose from nearly 87,000 candidates running for 12 seats in the senate and 275 seats in the House of Representatives. They are also in the race to become governors, mayors, provincial and city councillors.

    As is often the case with politics in the Philippines, this year's campaign has been marred by violence with over 100 people killed in nearly 120 reported incidents so far.

    Yet this has not deterred many of the country’s celebrities from running for office.

    Packing a punch

    Gomez will be one of the 50 celebrities hoping to convert their star status into political gain.

    Another hopeful is Manny Pacquiao, a world boxing champion, who is running for congress. The 28-year-old has spent most of the campaign training for a fight which he won last month to retain his WBC featherweight title. The win made him a national hero.

    While Gomez and Pacquiao seek to encash their popularity, critics have accused the celebrities of turning the political arena into a circus.

    Professional politicians, envious of the celebrity candidates, are also doing their best to grab attention and headlines. 

    Jose de Venecia was the leader of congress and one of the most senior professional politicians in the country.

    He is running for re-election and could recently be seen on TV screens dancing and performing.

    "They are out there singing and dancing and jumping," says Gomez. "So the circus is them – not us!"

    Estrada experience

    Traditional politicians like Jose de Venecia,
    right, have been forced to put on a show

    But this mix of politics and show-business is nothing new to the Philippines.

    After years as a town mayor, movie star Joseph Estrada made it all the way to the top, becoming president before being unseated by a middle-class uprising after he was charged with corruption.

    Many feel everyone should have a fair shot at an elected post – that acting is just another profession despite the undue advantage given to actors by their popularity.

    But surprisingly, this latest batch of celebrity candidates isn’t doing too well in the polls.

    "What does that tell you?" says Solita Monsod, a political analyst. "That tells you that people's fingers got burned with Estrada. So it's not as if history might repeat itself."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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