Advertisements Campaigns Voters
Political Advertisements reflecting Political Orientations
This paper tries to argue, and somehow support, that political advertisements during electoral campaigns reflect the political orientation of the voters.
The Philippines is known for its festive mood all year round - done through fiestas and other celebrations showcasing the very Filipino among us. To bring this to home is to mention our annual celebration of the Sinulog. The Sinulog 2007 Magazine presents the colorful celebration of the whole country in honor of the child Jesus - Senor Sto. Nino.
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This celebration along with the other celebrations all over the country signifies the dynamics of our culture - and this had been passed from one generation to another. Making the young ones realize and appreciate its value and importance. But festivals are not the only colorful features of the Philippines, we are likewise known to have very festive conduct of elections. Yes, elections in the Philippines resemble the celebration of fiestas.
In the very recently concluded May 14, 2007 Congressional and local elections the whole country have witnessed how politicians have used almost all forms of campaigning just to be properly known and eventually be voted by the electorates. In fact, as a result of campaign many of the politicians’ tarpaulin were left scattered prompting a businesswoman to convert them into bags, which were distributed to the fire victims somewhere in Metro Manila.
The reason for this was the huge volume of tarpaulin spent for by the candidates all for their desire to vote. To add, flyers and sample ballots were voluminously reproduced for the same purpose. However, for those who have a broader financial base they took advantage of the mass media in airing (broadcast and print) their political advertisements.
The patronage of politicians to the use of media is itself a statement of the wide reach of the latter as well as the extent of its possible impact on the decisions of the electorates. Most studies about the media try to look into how it operates in the “democratic” Philippines or how it influences the behavior of people, especially during elections. However, it is likewise interesting to explore what is reflected by the media as the society’s character, behavior and culture.
Hence, this essay describes the electorates’ political orientation that is projected or reflected in the political advertisements of politicians. However, it is bounded by the following delimitations: only the political advertisements of the Mayoral and Vice-Mayoral candidates of Cebu City are considered, this is for purposes of a more focused analysis. Furthermore, I made use of only print ads from newspapers, this is due to limited access to television advertisements. These delimitations may in the end limit as well the conclusion of this essay, however this can also serve as an initial study for a broader consideration by other scholars.
Culture, Politics and Media
From the sociological point of view, Giddens (2002) defined culture broadly to be the way of life of the members of society or groups within a society. It is that “something” that unites a society together and that which stitches the relations of people and social structures. However, culture is by nature not easily definable due to the fact that it’s merely manifested, such as its tangible and intangible aspects. Many theorists have imparted their own share of conceptualization about culture. Worth mentioning in this essay are the contributions of Jules Henry (1980).
Jules Henry postulated the anthropological idea that culture is preserved and perpetuated, and it is necessarily reproduced through the process of interaction among people in society. From here it can be deduced that culture is by its very nature - transmissible therefore learned. Hence, the culture of a society is passed on to the next generations in a dynamic fashion of learning.
The example highlighted by Henry is the cultural dreams turned nightmare of the Americans because of the highly consumeristic culture projected by the media. Jules Henry is decisive in prescribing the idea that the media is constructing a culture that is not reflective of the real needs of the public. From this contribution of Henry we can understand that the process of transmitting culture can be facilitated by a number of ways and means or agents.
Socialization is a primary channel for the transmission of culture over time and generation. There had been a continued discourse on culture and many scholars were engaged in more cultural studies during the heights of the behavioral revolution and the participation explosion after World War II.
The behavioral revolution did not exclusively affect the cultures of the world but also the functioning of polities. If in the past the study of politics was focused on the state, being the only institution which can authoritatively allocate the values to the society (Easton, 1953: 146) - the behavioral revolution had inspired other political scientists to engage in scholarships involving politics and culture. Among them were Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba in their breakthrough study published in 1963.
They studied about the Civic Culture of five countries by looking into the political attitudes as well as the practice of democracy in said five nations. In the study of political culture, culture must be understood as an individual’s psychological orientation toward social objects (Almond and Verba, 1963: 14). Almond further emphasized that political culture refers to the political system as internalized in the cognitions, feelings and evaluations of its population.
From here, the specificity of culture as applied in understanding politics is clarified. Hence, political culture refers to the specifically political orientations - attitudes toward the political system and its various parts, and attitudes towards the role of the self in the system (Almond and Verba, 963: 13). Verba also contributed his definition of political culture to consist of the system of empirical beliefs, expressive symbols, and values which defines the situation in which political action takes place (1965:513). The polity’s political culture is only one aspect of politics at the same time only an aspect of culture.
From such definitions we can draw the different modes of political orientations referred to by Almond and Verba, which are considered of high relevance because these help us understand how an individual may potentially react to political stimulus. They are: 1) cognitive orientation; 2) affective orientation; and 3) evaluative orientation.
Cognitive orientation refers to the knowledge of and belief about the political system. Ranney added that this include the information that an individual has about political affairs (1995:65). Moreover, other scholars look into the person’s level of awareness as a way of knowing his/her cognitive orientation.
Example of this is whether a person is aware of the list of local officials in their local government. Or it could be an inquiry into the various political issues s/he is aware of. From here the level of a person’s cognitive orientation is defined. Therefore, if the kind of information presented before the public is more knowledge-based we can infer that the presumption is that the public still need to be fed with pertinent information to be aware.
Affective orientation refers to the feelings an individual may have about the political system, its roles, personnel and performance. This orientation includes how individuals feel for a political phenomenon. For instance, how the people feel about the cheating issues posed against the Arroyo administration last 2004 elections. The emotions or the mood developed on the individual constitute his/her affective orientation. Hence, if the information presented for the public appeals more to the recipient’s emotion, it be could under the presumption that people already know the information and have developed shared emotion with the messenger.
Lastly, Evaluative orientation, this refers to the judgments and opinions formulated by individuals as a response to political objects which involves the combination of value standards and criteria with information and feelings. This is considered to be the most important type of political orientation because it determines the type of political culture of the polity. Furthermore, public opinions, to be useful, must be translated to public judgment and the latter must be manifested through public action.
There is a need for an individual to translate one’s judgment to action in order to substantially affect how political objects function. Good examples for this were EDSA 1 and 2. The people’s knowledge and feelings about the abuses of Marcos’ dictatorship were eventually translated to a public judgment of discontent hence, making possible the flooding of people in EDSA as a manifestation of their feeling of discontent and disappointment, very similar to the EDSA 2 circumstances. Therefore, if an information ignites action it presupposes that the people are already aware and have similar affect to a particular issue and would just need to share such sentiment to the rest.
These three will be the basis in analyzing the campaign advertisements of the candidates for mayor and vice-mayor in Cebu City. I will look into the kind of messages they have and from there try to understand the orientation they believe the voters have.
Both references did not only provide definitions of socialization but went on to say that this processes proceeds from an individual’s early stage in life up to one’s old age. This only means that this is continuous and dynamic. They also added that since this process is continuous there are various agents which help transmit the necessary political orientations. These agents are but not limited to the: Family; School; Peer Groups; Church; Mass Media; Government; and International Community (Ranney, 1995: 61-65; Almond and Powell, 2004: 58).On the other hand, understanding political culture with the general concept of culture would mean that political culture is also transmissible, and is best facilitated through political socialization. Almond and Powell defined socialization to be the way in which political values are formed and the political culture is transmitted from one generation to the next (2004: 52). Austin Ranney also gave his conception of political socialization to be the developmental process from which people acquire their political orientations and patterns of behavior (1995: 58).
Each of these agents has their respective ways of influencing an individual about the political. Among the most popular of these are family and mass media. In fact, most literature describing the political culture of Filipinos propound the idea that it is governed by familism, kinship ties and patron-client relations (Lande, 1965; McCoy, 1994; Sidel, 1999). On the other hand, the next most popularly regarded to influence an individual’s political orientation is the mass media.
In fact, scholars have concluded that the media really have social and political effects to the public. Furthermore, they contend that “every culture has means of preparing and conditioning its members to adopt expected social roles and activities and the mass media often times have an unrecognized role in this process.” Hence, the importance in looking into how the media influence or reflect the public is very much important.
Most often the influences of these agents are best manifested every time an individual takes part in a democratic exercise - such as elections. The paragraphs to follow will be devoted into discussing the relevance of the media in politics as well as the evolution of the conduct of elections in the Philippines.
In general terms, understanding the media inevitably requires understanding of communication - which, in its simplest context, is the act of sending ideas and attitudes from one person to another. Moreover, communication of people may either be intrapersonal, interpersonal, or through mass communication. Communicating within one person is intrapersonal communication. While, communicating with another person is interpersonal.
Lastly, communication between a person or a group of persons to a larger audience through a transmitting device is mass communication. In mass communication there are important elements that need to be present:
a) sender or the source who is responsible in putting in the message on the channel;
b) channel, which is the medium that delivers the message to the receiver, an example of this would be the television, newspapers, magazine and the like;
c) receiver, who is the intended (or unintended) audience of the message - the public; and
d) the feedback from the receiver, this occurs when the receiver responds to the message sent by the sender.
Mass communication is best characterized by:
a) the message is sent out using some form of mass media (newspaper or television);
b) the message is delivered rapidly; and
c) the message reaches large groups of different kinds of people simultaneously or within a short period of time. The idea of mass media really brings as much information to as wide an audience as possible, this makes the transmission of information easier and corollary to this would mean a more precise message.
There is more to mass media than merely transmitting messages. Other theorists propounded that “a person who takes a steady diet of mass media messages may be conditioned to believe that the world presented by the media is an accurate reflection of reality.” This is very much related to the concept of Jules Henry wherein the media, through its various advertisements, create a “cultural dream” for the public as evidence by growing consumerism among the people (1980). This brings me to the book of Dan Nimmo and James Combs Mediated Political Realities (1983).
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The book centers on the public having mediated realities. Walter Lippman said that “people act on the basis of pictures they carry around in their heads, pictures of the way they think things are” furthermore, he added “these pictures are derived from and changed by one’s direct experiences as well as those which they don’t deal directly.” This only means that not all realities are experienced firsthand, rather, our realities are complemented by things we are made to believe to be realities - this is facilitated by a medium which is the mass media.
Hence, it becomes a valid inquiry of whether the realities we see reflected by the media are in fact real. The authors went on to postulate that “each of us forges our own reality” which means that what we may consider reality may not be conceived similarly by others. In addition, a situation may mean various realities to various people hence, there cannot be a universal reality because they are all mediated.
The concept of mediated realities is brought by the influx of other means of communications, which is mass communications - sometimes complementing and in competition with other means or agents (Nimmo and Combs, 1983: 5). The authors went on to say that “social reality is constituted, recognized, and celebrated with media.” Meaning that the media indeed has a huge role to play in the process of making and unmaking realities.
This pushes us to another level of looking into realities, whether they are truly real or otherwise. From here, a caveat is better put in place, that what we see and experience through the media may simply be a construction we are made to believe or could be a reflection of what is truly real. The second postulation is taken adeptly by this essay for a number of reasons: a) the context of this essay is in the Philippines wherein a number of legislations are in place to govern the media; and b) such regulations highlight the importance of responsibly delivering the news to the public.
Media in the Philippines
As initially stated above, studies about media are often centered on its role/s in a society. For example, the role of the media during the time of Marcos - it was noted that the media during the Martial Law years were either under the payroll of some politicians or were frankly against the reign of Marcos. Furthermore, Sussman also mentioned that there were over twenty journalists documented to have been killed during the time of Marcos for expressing disagreeable opinion against local warlords.
The struggle for press freedom was also strong but was forcefully countered by a number of Presidential Decrees issued by Marcos to curtail any free expression through the press. Marcos even ordered the closure of media companies which were directly countering the mandates of his government, one of them was ABS-CBN of the Lopezes. However, the tides took a different turn on the eve of EDSA 1, the airwaves were useful when Cardinal Sin through Radio Veritas urged the people to pray and defend democracy.
The remaining media strength who looked into the political situation in the Philippines were the foreigners as they covered most of the fraudulent activities, especially during the conduct of previous elections. Moreover, the change of government from dictatorial to democratic also paved way for a freer mass media. To further ensure its free exercise, the same is guaranteed in Sec. 4, Art. III of the 1987 Constitution - Freedom of Speech and Expression and of the Press. The “press” specifically cover every sort of publications: newspapers, periodicals, magazines, books, handbills, leaflets, other written materials, television and radio broadcasting are also included. This only proves how much we regard, in terms of importance, the sector of the media in our country.
Media and Philippine Elections
The conduct of Philippine elections is likewise filled with a rich experience. The Documentary Eleksyong Pinoy is actually a very rich resource in terms of the evolution of our electoral exercise. To make it very comprehensive, the producers included personalities who have been actively engaged in the conduct of elections in the country such as former Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Commissioners Haydee Yorac, Christian Monsod; former National Citizens Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) Chairperson Jose Conception; Philippine Center for Good Governance (PCGG) Chairperson; His Eminence Jaime Cardinal Sin (due to his role in EDSA 1); a UP History Professor and other significant personalities. In all the documentary showed how elections were so limited in the past.
In fact, it presented that the elections during the later part of the Spanish colonial rule were exclusive only to those who have the stringent qualifications biased for the males, literacy, taxing capabilities, ownership of properties and others. Corollary, the chance to run for public office is also limited to those who have landholdings and were educated. But this limited access have been widened by the institutionalization of the democratic institutions by the American colonial rule as prepared by a number of US legislations. These organic acts essentially installed democratic ideals upon which people are given the chance to actively participate in the affairs of government, initially through elections.
Proof to this was the right to vote granted to women in 1937 after a massive success reaped from a nationwide plebiscite on the matter. Philippine elections have long been open to the participation of the public, though there were interruptions as to how free it is during the Martial Law years. In fact, based on the well-researched documentary, elections during the time of Marcos were noted to be fraudulent ones due to massive cheating and anomalies.
Elections according Mojares is a “collective rite of collective passage, with liminal phases, beginning with the preliminal period of ‘presubjectification’; the ‘limen’ of Election Day; and the postelection period of resubjectification during which results are validated, winners are proclaimed.” As for the progress of this essay, I will focus on the presubjectification period or the course of campaigns.
It was noted that the way Filipinos conduct campaigns are actual replica of that of US. Luz Rimban, writing for the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, stated that when US introduced elections in the Philippines it likewise included in the package its own style of campaigning, and this includes the use of mass media to somehow ‘manipulate public images’; the hiring of public relations and advertising professionals, and employing other sophisticated tools for campaign.
The mass media had since then been useful in projecting the image of the Filipino politician - the newspaper, radio and television were proven useful. The mass media exposure includes presentation of news coverage of the affairs of politicians. However, the use of mass media was strengthened by the passage of Republic Act 9006 otherwise known as the Fair Elections Act in February 2001. Section 3 of this legislation provides that:
Lawful Election Propaganda. - Election propaganda whether on television, cable television, radio, newspapers or any other medium is hereby allowed for all registered political parties, national, regional, sectoral parties or organizations participating under the party-list elections and for all bona fide candidates seeking national and local elective positions subject to the limitation on authorized expenses of candidates and political parties, observance of truth in advertising and to the supervision and regulation by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).
This opened the doors for a free use of the mass media as a means of launching a politician’s campaign. The most common among these mass media is the television. In fact, aside from the television and newspapers, other politicians made use of new technologies such as mobile phones and launching ‘text brigrades’, while others used the world wide web to introduce and sell themselves to the voters, especially the younger ones.
In fact, for this May 14 elections, many political parties and candidates used Friendster as a means of inviting potential voters. Hence, the old type campaigning buttressed by the new legislation truly expanded the campaigns of running politicians. Included in the list, and the focus of my paper, are newspapers. They are as well tapped by politicians to place their advertisements in.
Therefore, we can really say that the media has a huge role to play in Philippine elections. It is then a challenge to look deeper into these campaign ads and determine what particular political orientation are projected about the Filipino, in particular Cebuano, voters. How to look into this? I will look into the used and the face value of the print advertisement and from there analyze themes or connotations that would somehow clearly define the political orientation of the voters as reflected by it. To call this process content analysis or semiology would be an overstatement. Rather, this analytical framework is simply innovated.
Campaign Ads: Cebu City Elections
The candidates for Cebu City mayoral and vice-mayoral posts are Tomas Osmena VS. Mary Ann delos Santos and Michael Rama VS. Raymond Alvin Garcia, respectively. Both Tomas Osmena and Michael Rama are incumbent Mayor and Vice-Mayor of the City.
Mary Ann delos Santos, on the other hand, was the Barangay Captain of Lahug, while Raymond Alvin Garcia is the son of former Cebu City Mayor Alvin Garcia. Each camp had been organizing their respective campaigns: the use of streamers, tarpaulin, leaflets, mobile ads and print advertisements were taken advantage. Hence, for the latter I decided to look into one of the leading local newspapers in the islands: Sun-Star Newspaper.
I was able to scan the consecutive issues of Sun-Star Newspaper from April 1 up to May 12, 2007. Among the 42 issues the following were the breakdown:
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